Penn State's offense is exceeding even the highest of expectations under Joe Moorhead
Expectations started mounting back in April.
The first time we caught a glimpse of Joe Moorhead’s offense, there was an increasing belief that Penn State would finally start carrying its weight on that side of the football. If games got into a shootout the Nittany Lions would have the weapons to hang around. Holding opponents under 20 points wasn’t going to be the only way to come out ahead.
It didn’t take long for that standard to become a reality.
Penn State finally has the combination its been missing for the better part of a decade. It’s a system that plays to the strengths of its personnel. It’s producing incredible results. You could point to nearly any contest – except the game against Michigan – and you’d notice a remarkable change.
Saturday’s onslaught against Purdue may have been the peak.
For the first time since Aug. 30, 2008 the Nittany Lions exceeded the 60-point mark, beating the Boilermakers 62-24 in West Lafayette. They produced 519 yards of offense in an incredibly balanced performance, 265 on the ground and 254 through the air. Saquon Barkley churned out a career day, rushing for 207 yards and a pair of TDs, the highest yardage total of his two years. Trace McSorley – who wasn’t terrific – still threw three TD passes and didn’t toss a single interception on the afternoon. Seven different receivers caught a pass.
Yeah, Moorhead’s offense is working.
Purdue shouldn’t be the measuring stick by any regard. The Boilermakers gave up 50 points to Maryland, 49 to Iowa and now 62. It isn’t exactly a surprise that Penn State was able to eviscerate the defense and put a lot of points on the scoreboard. But this is something new for this program. Or a feature that hasn’t been relevant for quite some time, at least.
In the past, it would’ve been Penn State’s defense shutting down the Purdue’s offense, likely pitching a shutout while the offense sputtered along, scoring on two or three possessions to squeak out with a win. 45-point halves didn’t happen until this season. They hadn’t happened in a long time.
And Barkley’s 81-yard touchdown run? It was the longest run for a PSU back in 14 years.
Something is clicking for Penn State. The offensive line – still a work in progress – isn’t having the same trouble it had a year ago. McSorley isn’t constantly looking at the sky like Christian Hackenberg and Saquon Barkley is finding holes to cut – or hurdle – through. That wasn’t the case in the first two years of the James Franklin era.
Penn State is averaging 33.6 points per game. That’s the highest any Lions team has averaged since leading the B1G in scoring in 2008 when they averaged over 38 points per contest. They finished the year 11-2.
With games against Iowa, Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State remaining, there’s a good chance this Penn State team finishes with just two losses, as well.
Offense plays a huge role in that success. Moorhead’s arrival has been a blessing. Getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers and utilizing the personnel’s skill-set seemed like a foreign concept 12 months ago. Penn State is now putting up its best offensive numbers since 2013.
Everyone was expecting a new look from the Nittany Lions offense this season. How quickly it would catch on was the only looming question.
I think Penn State answered any remaining concerns in Ross-Ade Stadium.