Blue White Illustrated

December 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 4 of 67

D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 3 5 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M C oach James Franklin met with reporters in late October and ran through a series of game-defining stats as he always does at his weekly news conference. The two leading categories to assess were turnovers and explosive plays from a 33-24 win over Indiana days earlier. Both are team stats applicable to each side of the ball. The defense is responsible for creating turnovers. The offense is responsible for avoiding them. The defense is responsible for preventing explosive plays. The offense is responsible for creating them. From the game against the Hoosiers, one of those categories favored the Nittany Lions. The other, not so much. The moment served as a starting point for Franklin's assessment of the entire offensive unit through its first two months of action. He has often de- scribed turnovers and explosive plays as two of the strongest indicators of success or failure, and the 2023 edition of the Nittany Lion offense was simul- taneously excellent and inadequate. PSU was among the nation's best teams when it came to turnovers, and it was among the worst in explosive playmaking. For turnovers lost offensively, Penn State was the best team in the Big Ten with just 4 surrendered heading into the final four games of the regular season. That figure ranked second na- tionally and, in the Fremeau Efficiency Index — an opponent-adjusted rating system — it was No. 1 in the percentage of drives resulting in a turnover. Yet, the Nittany Lions checked in at No. 69 for explosive rank, ahead of only Michigan State, Northwestern, Ne- braska, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa in the Big Ten. Hence, when asked to evaluate the overall performance of offensive co- ordinator Mike Yurcich, Franklin re- flected the contradictory nature of the Lions' performance. "For the most part, I feel good," he told reporters. "When you take all the things into consideration, there are some metrics that we feel really good about and that you guys say nice things about. And there are some metrics that aren't, that we have to continue to work on." Of sophomore quarterback Drew Allar, Franklin said the team needs to make more plays on his behalf. He also said Allar needs to be "more consistent with some things" and has "a lot of room for growth" along with the play- ers around him. Of the offensive line, Franklin said the unit needs to "play better" after its performances against Ohio State and Indiana to wrap up the October slate. He also indicated that coaches and players need to manage and execute in order to put the line in a better spot for success. Regarding the receivers, multiple factors have been at play. For one, red- shirt sophomore Harrison Wallace III has seen action in just six games this season, with two early exits. His ab- sence has been costly. Wallace is the Nittany Lions' top wide receiver be- hind junior KeAndre Lambert-Smith, and his absences have magnified the group's inconsistency, both mentally and physically. Lumping all those factors together, the picture is complex when diagnos- ing Penn State's offensive ills this sea- son. "There is a lot to evaluate — the depth and the consistency at wide re- ceiver, how we're using our tight ends, the run game and where we're at," Franklin said. "What are we doing from a points perspective? We talked a ton about turnovers and explosive plays. … In one, I think we're doing very well." Franklin never finished the thought. But, in his evaluation of Allar's devel- opment thus far this season, the coach ultimately detailed exactly why the lack of explosiveness has been so det- rimental. "The more times you can put [ex- plosive plays] on tape, that affects the defense very similar to a mobile quar- terback," he said. "It gives them things that they fear, that a defense fears. If you can make a defense pay for playing an overly aggressive style, then you're going to get less of it. The more times you can do that, the better." Understanding the formula for un- locking greater offensive success this season, with an acknowledged need for improvement in personnel at key places within the formula, Penn State's path toward improvement is clear. The Lions need to continue limiting turn- overs and controlling games. They also need an infusion of big-play performances from Allar, Lambert-Smith, sophomore running back Nicholas Singleton, junior tight end Theo Johnson and others. That's the missing ingredient to this team's competitiveness against its toughest remaining opponents. ■ Injuries to redshirt sophomore receiver Harrison Wallace III have hindered Penn State's passing game throughout the season. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL O P I N I O N NAT E BAU E R N AT E . B A U E R @ O N 3 . C O M HOT READ Penn State's Offense Continues To Send Mixed Signals

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue White Illustrated - December 2023