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Offensive Woes Continue for Nittany Lions in Loss

It was more of the same for Penn State’s offense Saturday.

The nation’s worst rushing attack mustered only 42 yards on the ground on 41 carries. Christian Hackenberg, who has been struggling behind the Nittany Lions’ depleted offensive line, ended 18-42, with a touchdown, an interception, and a lost fumble.

No receiver had more than five receptions, and aside from a 33-yard third-down connection with Geno Lewis, Penn State didn’t have another play over 20 yards. Penn State only gained 219 total yards on the day.

The offensive struggles undeniably start at the offensive line. James Franklin hinted that guard Miles Dieffenbach would make his season debut Saturday, but he wasn’t dressed come kickoff. Left tackle Donovan Smith, who was injured last weekend against Ohio State, also did not play. Angelo Mangiro started at right tackle, Wendy Laurent, who was arrested Thursday after an egg-throwing incident, started at center.

The adjustments hardly worked, and Hackenberg was sacked four times.

“We have depth issues,” said Franklin. “Now we lose our left tackle, so that magnifies an issue we already have.”

Mangiro said that offensive line coach Herb Hand “cross trains us really well” to prepare to play multiple positions.

After the game, Mangiro contested that there’s no animosity between offensive and defensive players, stemming from the fact that the defense consistently performs exceptionally, and the offense, well, doesn’t. “I don’t think [that they’re frustrated],” said Mangiro of the defense. “We’re a tight locker room, we’re together as one, that’s the way we are. There’s no cross-frustration.”

Hackenberg looked dejected as he was surrounded by the media following the loss. Hardly raising his head or voice, he admitted that this team is not the team from last season.

“Obviously were a lot younger than we were last year,” he said. “Me being the young guy last year to me being the old guy this year, it’s a lot different…But  that’s what I signed up for, that’s what we all signed up for.”

Jesse James was slightly more optimistic. The tight end said Hackenberg kept his head in it, and competed through out. “He’ll be back,” he said.

James was Penn State’s second leading receiver, with five receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. James praised the progress his fellow tight ends have made. True freshman tight end Mike Gesicki made his first career start.

“I think we’re improving,” he said. “We just need to expect what’s coming and watch as much film as we can.”

It may take more than film study to help cure Penn State’s offensive woes. The Nittany Lions will have only a short week to prepare before it makes the long trip out to Indiana to tackle the Hoosiers.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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