Calling All Lanes, Gaps, Holes: Open Sesame

Calling All Lanes, Gaps, Holes: Open Sesame

Holding a record of 3-0 and waiting on in-for-today, out-in-15-months Mid-American Conference opponent UMass, Penn State could not be more perfectly arranged to face an opponent against which its rushing attack can/should/will/needs to get into motion. When the meat of the conference schedule begins next week against Northwestern, this team will not be able to win regularly if it can’t run the football. Defenses in this league – as lousy as the conference is overall at the moment – will present physical and sophisticated fronts week in and week out, so the time is now for this young offensive line to come together. Simply, State must get the ground game going; if head coach James Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan are unable to do so, this season will take a turn for the worse.

Former head coach Bill O’Brien ran (at least what this space believes to be) the perfect offense; a pro-style attack which used the run to set up successful play-action passes. Obviously with an inexperienced offensive line, which struggled mightily against Rutgers, producing sustained drives by handing the ball off is substantially harder. But it must come to be if this undefeated team wants its record to remain unblemished.

The good news is that the entirety of this coaching staff boasts top-notch talent, so Herb Hand should be able to make improvements. One intricate detail which shows the group’s early influence on this very young team was hackenberg rutgersrevealed late in Saturday night’s win and it was (likely) attributed to Josh Gattis, who coaches the wide receivers, and Ricky Rahne, who heads the passing attack.

On Penn State’s game-winning drive, Christian Hackenberg connected with Gino Lewis, who made a fantastic leaping catch and raced downfield. At about the 35-yard-line, Lewis could have cut inside and tried to use the far side of the field to get into the end zone. But he didn’t; he actually slowed down and purposely ran out of bounds. Of course doing so stopped the clock, which was smart in itself, but more importantly, Lewis realized that the risk of a fumble/the ball being stripped was too great and would have effectively ended State’s chances to complete the comeback. Obviously one can’t conclude with certainty that the decision was solely due to coaching influence, but for a sophomore to do what Lewis did and make that decision with all those endorphins pumping and the entire PSU bench screaming and cheering several feet away from his left ear showed what a well-coached player can accomplish during crunch time.

As Tony D. would say, “Unselfish, Unselfish.”

News & Notes

Sources have confirmed that Franklin is in the process of trying to move the 2015 season opener against Temple, which will be played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, to Thursday night, September 3.

It’s a bit hokey for a program such as this to play on a Thursday night. It just doesn’t make sense. Temple has been very receptive to the idea – for the Owls, the national television exposure is of course very attractive. The only possible logic that can be conjured as a motive for Penn State to do this is that Franklin knows that 2015 is his first legitimate chance for a national championship run (and looking at the mountain of talent returning, he is absolutely justified to believe so), so opening on a Thursday will give him two more days of practice before a five-week stretch of consecutive home games. (Not so much?)

Franklin has pushed all the right buttons so far, but this one is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Suggestion Box

If anybody associated with the Rutgers program is reading this, please take the following criticism with the mindset of hopeful improvement on your end. The product/town/stadium/operations/tailgating (the list goes on), as anybody who visited Piscataway (or is it the Livingston Campus branch, which is actually located on the East Brunswick campus, which then can be accessed by a shuttle bus to Rutgers-New Brunswick?) this past weekend will attest, is simply not ready to host big-time college football. The school is definitely trying and that’s great news for fans of the program. But Rutgers needs to try much harder.

The Big Ten has four of the top 10 all-time best college football programs in its stable: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska. Rutgers has already and will be hosting all four programs within the next calendar year (PSU and Michigan this season while the Bucs and Huskers will play there in 2015). If the Scarlet Knights think that Penn Staters complained too much (which they did rightfully so), wait until they hear what Wolverine, Buckeye and Cornhusker fans say when those groups visit.