Joe Moorhead is already proving to be a great hire by Penn State University
UNIVERSITY PARK- How many of you Penn State fans feel that what you’re watching with the offense these days is like some sort of dream?
Something you’ve been waiting to see for a long time.
Aggressive. Taking a bunch of shots down the field. Quick-strike ability. Scoring 62 points, for crying out loud. To be frank, James Franklin’s decision to hire Joe Moorhead is the best one he’s made in his three years at Penn State.
OK, so as to not get carried away just yet, this isn’t the 1994 PSU offense. It remains a work in progress and is by no means a finished product. It still struggles at times. There are still elements that make you scratch your head, such as:
-Why are there so many handoffs to Saquon Barkley when he’s basically standing still in the little foot dance with Trace McSorley? And…
-Why do they almost never go fast tempo, as we were led to believe they would but have found out that merely going no huddle every play doesn’t mean it’s a fast-paced offense?
That’s nitpicking, though, when really all that matters is this: Following two seasons in which the offense was comically inept and predictable, this year’s version is a lot of fun to watch.
Much of it thanks to Joe-Mo.
Oh, and new offensive line coach Matt Limegrover, who also has made an immediate impact transforming the O-line into an actual strength of the squad, instead of the program’s Achilles heel.
Penn State is averaging 33.6 points per game following Saturday’s 62-24 thumping of Purdue.
Last year, PSU averaged 23.2 points.
The Lions are up from 101st in the country in scoring a year ago to 39th this season.
I could bombard you with more stats to show enormous progress, but what’s the point?
You can see it with your own eyes.
A big part of sports is entertainment. You pay money or devote your time to watch a game, you should expect to be entertained.
What we saw the last two years with John Donovan as offensive coordinator was not entertaining.
What Moorhead brings to the table, and the promise of how good this offense could be as it continues to develop over the next few years, provides as much reason for optimism as anything else in the program.
There’s still work to be done, of course.
Saturday, the Lions missed opportunities in the first half as McSorley kept the ball on read options several times instead of giving it to Barkley, who would have had big gains to the right. They made that correction, and throughout the second half they exploited the right side and saw Barkley explode for 207 yards, including an 81-yard TD.
McSorley will continue to improve with his reads. The O-line, led by right tackle Brendan Mahon, who’s coming on to have a superb year, should make even more strides the rest of the season. The deep throws will continue to be there, and Moorhead has shown he loves calling those plays.
Believe it or not, Penn State ranks only 81st in the country in total offense, at 392 yards per game. As well as things have gone lately, seeing the number that low is probably a surprise to many fans.
Some stats are more important than others, though, and in some cases, stats don’t really tell you the story at all.
Here’s the story: The longer Moorhead stays at PSU, and the more pieces the program brings in to run this specific system, the more comfortable everyone is going to be. It might take a few years for everyone and everything to hit on all cylinders.
Regardless, as colleague Neil Rudel pointed out in Sunday’s Mirror, all 511 yards gained by the Lions at Purdue came from underclassmen. That’s a fantastic stat, and one that should provide a lot of optimism for the immediate future.
SUBHD: This and that
-Penn State moved up to No. 20 in the AP poll and debuted at No. 23 in the coaches poll Sunday. The College Football Playoff rankings come out Tuesday, and don’t be surprised if the Lions are ranked even better than they are in the two polls. Because…
-A strong case can be made that Penn State has the best win of any team in the country this season. Ohio State was No. 2 when it lost to the Lions last week, 24-21. Even after the loss, the Buckeyes remain the No. 2 betting favorite to win the national title, behind Alabama. It’s possible the CFP committee will put a lot of emphasis on that win over Ohio State and place PSU somewhere in the high teens.
-At 10-2, the Orange Bowl could be a strong possibility for the Lions. If they finish 9-3, the Outback Bowl would seem to be the most logical choice.
-Penn State opened as a 7-point favorite over Iowa for Saturday night’s game at Beaver Stadium.