Harvey Levine/FOS

Nittany Lions Shooting For Signature Win

Veteran tight end Mike Gesicki thinks an improved offense gives Penn State a chance to snap out of its funk against the best of the Big Ten East.

Penn State has lost four straight games to Ohio State, and while the 2012 and 2014 games were close (the former relatively so), the average score of those games is 42-18.

The Nittany Lions have also dropped three in a row to Michigan. Average score: 32-13.

Michigan State has also beaten PSU three straight times, by an average margin of 39-16.

Put it all together and you have 10 straight defeats to the Big Ten East’s top three teams (Sparty’s struggles this year notwithstanding), by an average score of 38-13.

“I think it’s time for that to come back around,” Lions tight end Mike Gesicki said earlier this week, as he looked ahead to Saturday night game against the second-ranked Buckeyes in Beaver Stadium. “I think it’s been too long, to be honest. Obviously this Saturday is an opportunity to get that signature win, and obviously we’re excited for that opportunity. Obviously we have many other things to take care of before all that kind of stuff falls into place and takes place, so we’re just excited for the opportunity on Saturday.” http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1719381-psu-fans-now-get-s...

Certainly there are signs that PSU, idle last week, has begun to turn a corner. The Lions (4-2) have won two straight since last month’s 49-10 embarrassment against Michigan in Ann Arbor, and their most recent game — a 38-14 victory over Maryland on Oct. 8 — was their most impressive in James Franklin’s two-plus years as head coach.

The offense, run by first-year coordinator Joe Moorhead, seems to be making the most notable strides, scoring 64 points over its last six quarters and change. And Gesicki has been a big factor; his 23 catches equal Chris Godwin’s team-leading total.

Despite all that, quarterback Trace McSorley has said the Lions are merely scratching the surface of their potential. Gesicki did not disagree, noting that there were some key penalties against Maryland, one of which negated a late touchdown run by backup QB Tommy Stevens.

“We have a game gear,” Gesicki said, “where we should at least be scoring 45, 50 points a game in some of these games.”

In retrospect, he said, the Wolverine wipeout might have been a blessing in disguise.

“I think the feeling after Michigan was one that is going to drive you and motivate you to improve,” he said. “That’s exactly what we have done.”  http://www.scout.com/college/football/recruiting/story/1719900-jaylen-ha...

He has endeavored to improve his blocking since then, which he called “an ongoing improvement process.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m a great blocker right now,” he said, “but I’d say I’m willing to do it. … I would say I like where I’m at, but I’m not really satisfied.”

Which could be said for the group as a whole. And on Saturday the Lions will be tested by an Ohio State defense that has retooled on the fly. There are eight new starters this season, but the Buckeyes (6-0) are nonetheless third in the FBS in points allowed (12.8), sixth in yardage yielded (280.3) and 20th against the rush (120.8). They are also fourth in pass-efficiency defense, and their 11 interceptions are fifth-most in the country; safety Malik Hooker has four of those.

“You come to Penn State to play in games like this,” Gesicki said, “so I think you just have to make the most of it and just make sure you don’t look back and wish that you could have done this, you could have done that or wishing you did more, just because it’s kind of a once-in-a-season opportunity, especially playing at home, in front of our fans and the white-out, all that kind of stuff.”

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