Ricky Rahne couldn’t have asked for a better debut as Penn State’s new offensive coordinator.
With the 37-year-old on the headset for Saturday’s 35-28 Fiesta Bowl win over Washington, the Nittany Lions racked up their best offensive performance ever in a bowl game, recording 545 total yards.
Penn State’s offensive line paved the way for 203 rushing yards (5.3 average) in Glendale, while Trace McSorley had plenty of time to throw and was only sacked once. Keep in mind that Washington entered the game as the nation’s top-ranked rush defense.
McSorley finished 32-of-41 passing for 342 yards and two touchdowns. He posted another 60 on the ground.
Ricky Rahne celebrates a Fiesta Bowl victory with family. pic.twitter.com/cc3bxhx8dM
— Onward State (@OnwardState) December 31, 2017
In congruence with the spread style the Nittany Lions ran under Joe Moorhead, Penn State didn’t take a single snap from under center, but did implement a few more shovel passes than usual.
Rahne rotated in backup quarterback and starting “Lion” Tommy Stevens a handful of times, lining him up in the backfield alongside McSorley and Saquon Barkley, while also splitting him out wide as a receiver.
Speaking of Barkley, the Coplay, Pa., native tallied 175 all-purpose yards and two spectacular touchdowns against the Huskies, including a Fiesta Bowl record and career-long 92-yard dash down the left sideline. The play will certainly be on SportsCenter throughout the night.
James Franklin had high praise for McSorley following the game.
“I can’t imagine there’s a better quarterback in the country in terms of decision-making, leadership, and toughness,” he said.
“The next step for us is to go hire the best running backs coach in the country to come and complement the rest of the staff that we have, and I’m going to fight like hell to keep this staff together,” Franklin said before mentioning he owed his youngest daughter, Addison, who joined him on the podium, a dollar for cursing.
“It’s just special,” offensive tackle Andrew Nelson said in the locker room. “I do feel like the seniors have already accomplished what we came here to do, but it’s a great way to send us off.
“Our class, specifically the fifth-year guys, we committed during the heat of the sanctions, with the thought that we would want to turn this program around, bring it back after people said that this program was going to be dead basically.”
Nelson also said he hopes to continue his playing career if possible.
“Right now, it’s kind of up in the air, but I really believe, despite all the injuries, that I have the talent to play at the next level, so we’ll see if I continue and try to take a shot at the NFL.”
Penn State’s offense returns plenty of playmakers next season, plus the whole offensive line except Nelson and right guard Brendan Mahon. Barkley has yet to make a decision on whether he’ll enter the NFL draft, saying he’s “not focused” on it right now.
Even if he doesn’t return to State College, as expected, the Nittany Lions will no doubt be chasing a national championship in 2018. With Rahne at the helm of Penn State’s offense, you can expect the fireworks to keep coming.