Penn State offense loses track of who it is in loss to Ohio State [opinion]

Oct. 22—COLUMBUS, Ohio — James Franklin’s response to a question last week regarding Penn State’s offense was baffling, especially in light of their performance on Saturday.

“You need to understand and determine the identity of your team,” said the Nittany Lions coach, “and fully embrace that identity despite external opinions.

“You must be comfortable in your own skin and embrace your style of play.”

However, they failed to embrace their identity in their 20-12 loss to Ohio State, extending their losing streak to the Buckeyes to seven games. They were not comfortable with who they were.

Penn State neglected their running game, even though the score margin remained within one possession for the first 56 minutes, largely due to their outstanding defense.

Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich called for only 18 running plays but an astounding 50 passing plays.

This decision went against running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, who are regarded as the team’s top offensive players. It also disregarded the struggles of their wide receivers to find separation, a problem that reappeared against Ohio State.

The play-calling contradicted everything that had propelled Penn State to a 6-0 record and clashed with Franklin’s statements from last Tuesday.

Prior to Saturday, Penn State had averaged more than 44 running plays per game, including 57 attempts for 215 yards in their 31-0 victory over Iowa.

“I feel like we could have run the ball more,” Franklin admitted on Saturday.

Franklin, Yurcich, and other staff members acknowledged the absence of an elite receiver like Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. Their receivers struggled to create separation from the defensive backs, a problem that persisted on Saturday.

So why did they place the entire burden on sophomore quarterback Drew Allar when they had not done so all season?

“We did not execute as we were supposed to,” Allar said, shouldering the blame for the team’s offensive struggles. “Coach Yurcich called some great plays that were in our game plan. But as players, we failed to execute. We need to figure out why.”

Yurcich deserves a significant portion of the blame. He lacked the patience he had demonstrated in the Iowa game.

In the first quarter, Singleton rushed for 20 and 16 yards, respectively, before Yurcich called two consecutive pass plays that resulted in a loss of three yards. In a subsequent series, Allar lined up in the shotgun formation instead of under center on a crucial third-and-1, resulting in an incomplete pass.

In the third quarter, on third-and-1 from the Penn State 11-yard line, Allar threw a pass under pressure behind Singleton, who was unable to make the catch.

“We believed that Ohio State possessed one of the best short-yardage defenses based on our film study,” Franklin explained, potentially justifying why Penn State did not run the ball more often.

The Lions went 1-for-16 on third down, with their sole conversion occurring during their final touchdown drive. This poor percentage arose from being in too many third-and-long situations and lacking faster receivers.

“Drew needs his teammates to consistently make plays for him,” Franklin remarked. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Ohio State maintained a balanced game plan despite the presence of Harrison, who recorded 11 receptions for 162 yards and one touchdown. Kyle McCord completed 22-of-35 passes for 286 yards, while the Buckeyes ran the ball 41 times for a mere 79 yards. They exhibited patience.

Although Singleton and Allen combined for 74 rushing yards, the team only attempted six rushing plays in the second half. Allar concluded the game with 18 completions on 42 attempts for 191 yards and one touchdown.

This marked the first time in at least six years that Penn State had fewer than 20 rushing attempts and more than 40 passing attempts. It was also the first game of the season in which they threw the ball more than they ran it.

“One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to try and be something you’re not in certain games,” Franklin stated last week, “and forget who you truly are.”

They lost sight of their identity.


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