Twelve Days — Coaching

Our 12 Days of Christmas breakdown of the Penn State football program continues with the men who lead the program. It was a great year for the defensive coaches. But things did not go quite so well for the offense and special teams.

11th DAY — COACHING

MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE: You’ve heard the old football cliché that says offense sells tickets and defense wins games.

Well, Penn State turned that concept on its ear in 2004.

The Nittany Lions had a tremendous defense, one that finished as the only unit in the nation not to allow more than 21 points in a single game. With the Wisconsin defense struggling against Georgia in the Outback Bowl yesterday, Penn State caps the season as the Big Ten leader in fewest points (15.3) allowed per game.

Tom Bradley’s young group allowed only 14 touchdowns, and an amazing five scores through the air. All of this without a single first-team All-Conference player and only two seniors. If there was a better coaching job by a college assistant last fall, we didn’t see it.

And the offense? The Nittany Lions finished the regular season ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring (17.7 ppg), 10th in rushing offense (129.9 ypg) and ninth in passing offense (180.8 ypg). Penn State lagged far behind the rest of the league in red zone offense, too, scoring on only 62.9 percent of its trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

If there was a worse job of coaching done by an offensive staff last fall, we didn’t see that, either.

Two other stats of note: First, the Lions went 4-7 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten. Second, Penn State drew an average of better than 103,000 fans to its six home games.

It all adds up to the following truism about Nittany Lion football: Defense sells tickets, but offense wins games.

New offensive coordinator Galen Hall — he of the diverse and impressive resume — was supposed to solve the problems that have hindered the Nittany Lions in every season but one (2002) since the turn of the century: Poor play by the offensive line, inconsistent efforts by the quarterbacks, bad hands by the receivers.

Instead, things were just as bad as they’d been under previous coordinator Fran Ganter, who left the staff in the off-season for another post in the athletic department. Much maligned the past few seasons, Ganter was vindicated.

Which leaves a couple of common denominators in Penn State’s offensive struggles of the past half decade. One is Jay Paterno, who was appointed quarterbacks coach in 2000 and began playing a key role in the offensive play-calling at the time. The other is head coach Joe Paterno, who has required his offensive coordinators to share play-calling duties with JayPa even though the results have been poor.

Until this changes, Penn State will not have a consistently effective offense.

WHO WAS NAUGHTY: Everyone involved with the offense and special teams.

WHO WAS NICE: Everyone involved with the defense. And don’t forget about the great job the entire staff is doing with recruiting this year.

UNDER THE TREE: You are not going to hear anything about changes to the staff until after recruiting season wraps up. But, after a second-straight poor offensive showing, we imagine some moves will occur.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: Stop the madness and turn over the offensive play-calling to the most qualified person on the staff — Hall. Put Mike McQueary in charge of quarterbacks and name Jay Paterno special teams coach. And, for goodness sake, get a decent offensive line coach (we hear Craig Cirbus is available). The Lions have not produced a draftable lineman in forever.

And one more thing: Pray Tom Bradley does not take another job.

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