While former Penn State OC Joe Moorhead was demonstrating how to tear up Ohio State’s defense, new Lions OC Mike Yurcich had his unit doing some remedial learning at the expense of Ball State.

As Beaver Stadium welcomed back 100,000-plus fans longing to reconnect after nearly 2 years of isolation, Sean Clifford, Jahan Dotson, Noah Cain and Co. went to work ironing out some kinks.

By the end of one quarter on Saturday afternoon, Yurcich’s offense had already put up a bunch of stats that took well past 30 minutes to produce in Week 1 against a stingy Wisconsin defense. In fact, Penn State hit some marks that it didn’t reach in the entire 60 minutes of its 16-10 season-opening victory against the Badgers. Cases in point:

  • completions to tight ends (2)
  • completions to running backs not named Cain (2)
  • A drive — 4 of them, actually! — that lasted longer than 2 minutes, 10 seconds.

In addition to getting the ball to Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, Keyvone Lee and Devyn Ford through the air for the first time in 2021, Clifford also connected with his top 2 wideouts — Dotson and Parker Washington — twice each and Cain once in a 9-of-10, 103-yard first 15 minutes. The 3rd-year starter at QB also shared the rushing load with Cain, rushing 4 times for 14 yards and a score.

Cain, who had zero total yards at halftime a week ago, put up 38 yards and a rushing TD on 6 first-quarter touches.

Two drives, 2 TDs, 14-0 after 1.

Diversity? Check.

Penn State would go on to score on 4 of its first 5 drives in routing last year’s MAC champs 44-13 to move to 2-0. After last week’s nail-biter, it was nice to watch the No. 11 Lions do what was expected against the Cardinals, who proved no match for a Big Ten power even with almost all their starters back from a 7-1 season.

And yes, one year removed from an 0-5 start, Penn State is again a B1G power. Based on what happened around the league Saturday, one could make a case that Penn State is THE power in the East, rather than The Ohio State University.

With Moorhead directing its offense, Oregon exploited the edges of No. 3 Ohio State’s defense in a 35-28 upset in Columbus. The Buckeyes might not fall below the Lions in the next AP Poll. They did rack up 612 yards of offense, and the Ducks were ranked No. 12 going in. But the OSU defense — with 3 new starters at linebacker — is looking vulnerable through 2 games.

The Lions will certainly get a bunch of chances to prove they are the beast of the B1G East, starting next Saturday back in Beaver Stadium against No. 25 Auburn, which is 2-0 coming off a 62-0 victory over Alabama State. James Franklin’s squad will also face No. 10 Iowa — the clear top dog in the B1G West after decisively beating No. 9 Iowa State on Saturday — among 5 opponents on the schedule before the Lions travel to Columbus for an Oct. 30 showdown.

Let’s not kid ourselves: Some dominoes will have to fall correctly for Penn State to get to late October unscathed. The Lions have a lot of work to do just to get ready for Auburn’s resurgent Tigers under 1st-year coach Bryan Harsin.

For one thing, 2nd-year coach Phil Trautwein’s offensive line remains a work in progress. Penn State’s QBs were sacked 3 times, and the offense really bogged down after halftime. It took a Pick 6 by Jesse Luketa to make the lead truly comfortable at 31-6.

The 4 O-line regulars — C Mike Miranda, LT Rasheed Walker, RT Caedan Wallace and RG Juice Scruggs — were still in the game early in the fourth quarter, while Bryce Effner was getting time at the volatile LG spot. Anthony Whigan and Harvard transfer Eric Wilson have also worked at that spot.

The offense produced just 6 points in the second half before backup QB Ta’Quan Roberson led a TD drive in mop-up time. The best offensive play after the intermission was a 43-yard misdirection run by Clifford that was sprung by a block by a wide receiver.

The final stats look solid enough. Clifford went 21-of-29 for 230 yards and 1 TD, but still missed a couple open receivers. The running game cranked out 240 yards on 48 carries, with Cain, Lee and Clifford carrying the bulk of the load. Dotson and Washington combined for 11 catches for 122 yards and Dotson’s 1 TD.

It all added up to 493 total yards and 31 first downs, solid enough. But, for my taste, Jordan Stout got too much work on FGs (3-for-4, miss from 45) and punting (3 for a 51.3-yard average) after PSU’s crisp 154-yard first quarter.

By the time the sun was setting on a warm, breezy afternoon at Beaver Stadium, the buzz from Penn State’s 6th straight victory was fading. The Lions might need to be a lot better by next weekend to beat Auburn. Yurcich, Trautwein and Clifford left plenty to prove.

On the other hand, that was a second straight turnover-free effort. Brent Pry’s defense picked off 2 more passes and held the Cardinals under 300 yards. And Ohio State is 1-1.