PSU could push 'fun factor' even higher in Rahne's debut season as OC
Over the past two seasons, Penn State has been more fun to watch than at any time in its history.
That’s a near consensus thought among fans and media members who’ve been around long enough to have the data and fond memories to justify such an opinion.
Sure, it was fun to watch John Shaffer game-manage the Lions to a 12-1 record and an upset of Miami during the national championship season of 1986. And certainly, Penn State has had its share of dynamic play-makers, particularly running backs. And yes, great defenses and great individual defensive players have wowed us over the years.
But nothing in PSU’s past compares for sheer joy of watching to the high-octane offense Joe Moorhead coordinated over the past two seasons. The closest the Lions have come would be the 1994 team featuring Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Bobby Engram and Kyle Brady. That group put up better than 520 yards and a nation’s best 47.0 points per game.
Moorhead’s offense last season put up 460 yards and 41.1 points per game. By the numbers, that’s quite a bit shy of Fran Ganter’s 1994 unit. But FUN isn’t measured in numbers.
The run-pass option is antithetical to how Penn State did things back in the good ole days. Collins “rushed” for minus-19 yards in ’94. Last season, McSorley ran for almost 500.
The beauty of the offense now is in its synergy and wide-open, devil-may-care approach. One play sets up another. Penn State has never before had an attack that stretches defenses so much and forces them to cover so many contingencies.
And there are a number of reasons to believe it can reach new heights — even with Moorhead now at Mississippi State, Saquon Barkley with the New York Giants and Mike Gesicki with the Miami Dolphins. Consider:
- Trace McSorley won’t be holding anything back in his senior season, and might take on an even bigger role with Barkley gone. James Franklin wasn’t shy about squeezing the maximum yield out of Barkley last year, and I don’t imagine he’ll be reining in McSorley now. Will we see an expanded TD celebration repertoire this fall?
- Ricky Rahne takes over as offensive coordinator as an inside hire. So it’s not like any secrets left with Moorhead. And, who knows, maybe Rahne has some new tricks up his sleeve. There are greater variations possible — for example, running an occasional play from under center to provide a quick-hit element.
- For the first time in a long while, Penn State is openly talking about its offensive line as a strength. If McSorley faces less pressure and running plays have more time to develop, the unproven skill position players could mature and flourish sooner than expected.
- There will be a lot of new starters on defense, and if they have growing pains, the offense might need to keep its foot on the accelerator. I don’t know if the Lions will have to win some shootouts this season, but it’s nice to know they can.
Let the fun begin!