TYM: Grading the Offense

Check out our midseason report card for the Penn State football team. In Part 1, staffers Mark Brennan and Mark Harrington tackle the offense.

Welcome to the latest installment of Take Your Marks, the occasional series where FOS staffers Mark Brennan and Mark Harrington discuss and debate topics related to the Penn State football team. In this installment they tackle midseason grades for the offense.

QUARTERBACK

Mark Brennan: Penn State got off to a terrible start here, but with Matt McGloin earning more playing time (over Rob Bolden) of late things have begun to come around. The Lions rank sixth in the Big Ten in passing yards per game (212.2) and McGloin is sixth in efficiency rating (141.2). The bottom line here, though, is that the game of musical quarterbacks being played by the coaching staff has prevented either man from really establishing himself. PSU has just two scoring passes against teams not named Eastern Michigan and the quarterbacks have really struggled in the red zone.
Grade: C-

Mark Harrington: Yes, the two-for-one approach at QB has been a rough experiment on everyone. McGloin has pulled away finally as the go-to quarterback, but frustrations seem to linger on as the reps continue to get split. Bolden has a had a tough time and, as you mentioned, the red-zone issues must be addressed as the meat of the schedule approaches.
Grade: C

RUNNING BACK

Mark Harrington: With the loss of Stephfon Green (to suspension) and Brandon Beachum (to injury), this position could have seen a significant drop-off. However, the play of Silas Redd and Curtis Dukes has been more than impressive as the season has pressed on. In fact, Redd has 47 percent of his yardage and carries in the last two games, so he appears to be getting stronger as the year progresses. Toss in the strength and versatility of Joe Suhey and Michael Zordich at fullback and it's a balanced backfield that has shown it can carry the load.
Grade: A-

Mark Brennan: Against Iowa, we finally got a glimpse of what the Penn State tailbacks are capable of when they get a sustained push from the offensive line. Redd was outstanding as the workhorse, Dukes proved to be a powerful complement and Suhey helped loosen up the Hawkeye defense with three catches. On the downside, we've yet to see anyone emerge as a home-run threat. State's longest run from scrimmage this year is a 30-yarder, by Dukes. Redd's longest tote has been 24 yards, and he only has four scores on 119 carries. This area should get even better in the second half of the season with the return of Green and Beachum.
Grade: B-

RECEIVER

Mark Brennan: Overall, this has been a productive bunch, led by senior Derek Moye (28 catches for 485 yards and three scores). As a team, PSU is averaging a respectable 12.7 yards per catch, and Moye's YPC average of 17.3 is third-best among the Big Ten leaders. There is a rub, though. This veteran unit was looked to as THE strength of offense going into the season, and as such was expected not only to perform well, but to excel. And that simply has not been the case. There have been too many drops in clutch situations. Routine catches have been … well … routine, but there have been few instances where a receiver has gone up and made a spectacular play. Looking forward, with Moye expected to miss at least a couple of games with a foot injury, some of the younger wideouts must step up.
Grade: B-

Mark Harrington: I agree the drops have been too frequent and had a major impact at times. The unit has made strides with Moye and Brown leading the way, with flashes from Devon Smith, Shawney Kersey and tight end Andrew Szczerba. But each of them have come and gone in games. If the second-tier guys can build their consistency they'll bring an added dimension to the passing game.
Grade: B-

OFFENSIVE LINE

Mark Harrington: This unit is starting to gel, but the season is halfway over. With a strength in pass protection, the lack of consistent production in run blocking was a concern but has improved as of late. The coaches messing around with De'Ontae Pannell and John Urschel at right guard was also a head-scratcher. But give credit to center Matt Stankiewitch, who has been able to manage the middle pretty effectively. The unit has only given up five sacks in six games, which is a major plus.
Grade: C+

Mark Brennan: As long in the tooth as this group is, there is no way it should have taken six weeks for it to finally put together a complete game against a quality opponent. The Nittany Lions have been good in pass protection all season, allowing only those five sacks (second in the Big Ten). But more often than not, the backs have discovered little running room. State averaged 3.6 yards per carry vs. Alabama, 2.6 vs. Temple and 3.9 vs. a bad Indiana team. For the season, PSU is averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Add in any number of key false-start and holding penalties, and this unit has plenty of room for improvement.
Grade: C-

COACHING

Mark Brennan: The lack of decisiveness at quarterback and the painfully … slow … process … of … developing … an … offensive … line have been the key issues for the Nittany Lions. To me, those types of things go back to coaching. I get that there have been instances where athletes have not stepped up and made big plays. But I'd argue that, generally speaking, a lack of clear leadership at QB and an inconsistent offensive line can be so distracting as to impact the performances at other positions. One gets the sense that Penn State went into the season without a clear plan of what it wanted to do offensively and it showed with a lack of production. The improved effort vs. Iowa (and 5-1 record overall) is all that prevents a “D” grade here.
Grade: C-

Mark Harrington: I agree, the staff has all but deferred its responsibility to pick a quarterback, even when the decision became clear. Plus, playing around with some positions like right guard contributed to the line's issues, in my view. But back to the quarterback situation -- not giving McGloin the starting opportunity has done this squad a disservice and shown that earning the job doesn't necessarily earn you the job, which makes me think that there is something less appealing in that story. Deferring responsibilities in this manner gives the offensive staff a “D” in my view, particularly when you opt to then lecture fans on the topic.
Grade: D

OVERALL

Mark Harrington: The offense has mustered points when it's needed them, but also squandered opportunity after opportunity from the defense. Toss in the red-zone woes and this unit has a lot of progress to make with little time left in the season. Granted the Lions are 5-1, but that is in large part due to a determined defense, particularly against Temple and Iowa.
Grade: C

Mark Brennan: There has been plenty of teeth-gnashing over how bad the offense has been this season, and with good reason. At the midway point of the campaign, Penn State ranks next to last in the Big Ten and 93rd in the nation in scoring offense (21.5 ppg). The Lions have converted on only 17 of 23 red-zone chances, which is 95th nationally. As I mentioned earlier, though, the team is still 5-1. And the offense has made clutch plays when it has needed them against everyone except Alabama.
Grade: C-


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