Penn State Football: The 2013 Team On Pace To Be One Of The Best In The Fourth Quarter
You probably haven't even noticed it, but the 2013 edition of Penn State football may just turn out to be one of the best fourth quarter teams in program history.
Last season the story was just the opposite. Penn State outscored opponents 97-20 in the first quarter while racking up 79 total points in the final 15 minutes. Through four games this season Penn State has already reached the 58 point mark in the fourth quarter with a whopping eight games to go.
This may not seems like a big deal, but in the context of Penn State history the current fourth quarter total is on pace to shatter recent marks. Penn State actively hosts 16 years worth of data on its GoPSUsports.com website. Of these 16 years, six failed to break the 58 point fourth quarter mark.
On average, Penn State has scored 64.4 points per season in the fourth quarter over the nearly two decade long span. So at the very least the Nittany Lions are well on their way towards beating that mark. In fact, if Penn State were to score 14.5 points per game in the fourth quarter --the team's current average-- the 174 point total would break the best mark in recent history by over 60 points.
The two best fourth quarter teams over that span? The 2005 and 2008 teams both scored 106 points in the fourth quarter. Interestingly enough, both had outstanding seasons and were the most successful in Happy Valley over that 16 year span.
So why the surge this year?
When comparing the 2012 and 2013 teams, experience is likely the largest difference on both sides of the ball.
In 2012, O'Brien was aggressive and his offensive weapons were experienced enough to go out and get the job done earlier in the game. In 2013 Penn State has had to earn the wins, two with ease, but none of the three came without a few bumps in the road. O'Brien has also shown a willingness to go for touchdowns late in the game when a field goal would do the trick. A bit of a change from former head coach Joe Paterno's more conservative approach.
As for the the 2005 and 2008 teams? They both scored points with ease all game long. The 2008 Nittany Lion squad was one of the most explosive since the 1994 undefeated season. For Penn State to break that fourth quarter mark this year, the Nittany Lions would need to accumulate 48 points over the course of the next eight games. That's an average of six points per game in the fourth quarter, less than half the current average.
Also of note; if the Nittany Lions were to break the mark of 106 points, they would have done it in one fewer game, thanks to the current NCAA bowl ban.
What it means for the course of the season is hard to say. O'Brien approaches the game differently than Paterno in many ways. An O'Brien team scoring frequently in the fourth quarter could mean the Nittany Lions are coming from behind more often just as much as it could mean the offense is explosive.
Whether or not it's a statistic that impacts the outcome of the season remains to be seen, but either way it is still an interesting story to follow as the season progresses.