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Penn State’s Point-a-Play Offense: 62 Points in 63 Plays vs. Purdue

by on October 30, 2016 8:00 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Let’s get things over with quickly, shall we? This will be an up-tempo story:

Penn State’s offense ran off 62 points here against Purdue on Saturday. In 63 plays.

Purdue? 24 points, 81 plays.

But the Boilermakers won the time of possession game, 34:17 to 25:43. No matter. Scoring points is the point of Joe Mo’s Point-a-Play Offense, i.e.:

Twenty-four points in the third quarter against Purdue, 21 in the fourth. 86 in the past two games. 124 in the past 12 quarters.

All four Penn State running backs who played in Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday scored. Saquon Barkley (3 and 81 yards), Andre Robinson (4 and 19 yards) and Mark Allen (1 yard) each had rushing touchdowns, while Miles Sanders had a 21-yard receiving TD.

Here are seven more points, just not the kind that go on the scoreboard. But there is a cause and effect:


Chunk plays and deep shots and explosive plays and big gainers are all good things. In fact, they’re are related. Against Purdue, Penn State had 18 plays over 10 yards (8 run, 10 pass), six plays over 20 and four plays over 35 yards.

Specifically: 10, 11, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 21, 22, 23, 26, 37, 38, 42 and the Saquon PowerBall, which was 81.


“They were packing the box, forcing us to throw it over their heads,” Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley said after the game. But he could have been saying it after any game in 2016.

“Even if we’re throwing it and not completing it at a high percentage, it loosens them up a bit and lets them know we will take those shots,” he said. “Eventually we will start completing a couple of them down the field.”

On Saturday, “a couple” and "eventually" meant eight completions of 19 yards or longer.


Barkley ran 10 times for 34 yards in the first half against Purdue.

In the third quarter, he ran 7 times for 92 yards (9, 9, 5, 10, 20, 17 and 22, in that order).

In the fourth quarter, he ran once. For 81 yards.

Simply status quo, says wide receiver Chris Godwin: “Although we expect great things from him in the field, sometimes there will be a play where you go, ‘Wow, this kid is really special.’ At the same time, he’s a humble guy, a hard worker – so you root for him.”

He can always go, says center Brian Gaia: “With Saquon, we know every snap he can be gone, as long as we do our job.”

So, does his head coach, James Franklin, have the inside skinny on when Barkley is going to break one?

Asked that after the game, Franklin paused, smiled, then said, “Noooo. Yeah, if I did… no, no. I think he’s the type of player we would all admit that he has a chance to break on every play. That’s why he’s exciting. That’s why he’s one of the better running backs in college football.

4. BOTH 2 AND 3.

“Saquon sets up a lot of passing lanes for Trace,” Gaia said. “It sets up our play action and a lot of shots. We’ve been pretty good on shots all year. I think we’re No. 1 in the Big Ten in deep balls.”


Lately, when it comes to McSorley, there hasn’t been a trace of a mistake. OK, 8 of 23 with 8 straight incompletions vs. Ohio State kinda qualifies. But we’re talking big mistakes, like turnovers. And the last time the PSU QB committed a turnover – lost a fumble or interception – was back in the final quarter against Michigan. That’s 16 error-free quarters over the past four games.

McSorley turned 21 on Aug. 23 this summer – the day Franklin and Joe Moorhead told him he was Penn State’s starting quarterback. Which means that McSorley has been turnover-free for 34 days, 51% of his adult life.


Penn State scored 10 times on Saturday – eight touchdowns and two field goals. For your review and in order: 3:27, 1:59, 4:21, 1:18, 39, 1:42, 1:14, 13, 3:07 and 2:16.

The shortest drive: 13 seconds (Barkley’s burst). The longest: 4:21, to set up one of Tyler Davis’ two reactively short field goals (29 and 33 yards). The average: 2 minutes and 1.6 seconds. That ain’t average for most folks, however.

“It’s definitely fun when the offense is rolling,” Gaia said, “and we can pretty much call a play and it will probably hit.”


Penn State has two new coordinators this season. And, says Gaia, a senior co-captain who leads the team in career starts (33), a more coordinated effort.

“We have confidence in what our coaches are going to do,” Gaia said, who switched from guard to center in the off-season. “And the coaches have confidence in us, so it goes back and forth. We don’t question a play when it comes in. You know that whatever play Coach Moorhead makes, whatever call Coach (Brent) Pry makes on defense, is going to work – as long as we execute our jobs. It’s a great meld right now, with the player-coaches relationship.”

So, we asked Gaia, is the exploding offense borne of confidence or JoeMo’s new schemes?

“I think it’s confidence in the scheme,” Gaia answered.

“And then,” he added, “confidence he’s going to call the right play at the right time.”

Points well made.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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