Penn State Offensive Line Shows Growth, Promise In Victory Over Buffalo
Week one against Temple was about as bad as any game could get for Penn State’s offensive line — the oft-criticized scapegoat for the team’s offensive woes. Giving up 10 sacks while allowing Christian Hackenberg to be tossed like a rag doll served as the unit’s “rock bottom.” Set to face a stout, seasoned Buffalo defensive front headlined by senior Okezie Alozie, few anticipated anything different from Herb Hand’s group.
From the looks of it, Penn State’s offensive line doesn’t pay much attention to what other people think.
The line provided Hackenberg with a comfortable cushion all game, and kept Buffalo from registering a single sack. The unit displayed poise, and showed signs that it was finally beginning to gel — all without the help of Andrew Nelson, who left the game after being injured seconds before halftime. Paris Palmer, who was repeatedly torched in pass protection against Temple, responded to adversity better than anybody could’ve imagined.
“Paris got the week one jitters out, and I think he played pretty well,” James Franklin said during his postgame press conference. “The biggest thing was that I thought we managed the offensive line situation much better, being able to run the ball and move the pocket. I thought the line stepped up when they needed to.”
Palmer was a player tasked with the nearly impossible task of replacing Donovan Smith, and shouldered much of the crushing weight of expectations from the moment he arrived on campus. First, it was issues with his weight. Next, it was the question of the Division I game being too much for him to handle. But after his performance against the Bulls, Palmer seems to have alleviated some of that burden, and answered a few of those lingering questions in the process.
“I told Palmer that I loved him, that I believed in him, and took a towel and wiped off his foggy rec-specs,” Franklin said. “I let him go in and play, and I thought he did well.”
Franklin spoke on the entire team’s adjustment from week one to week two, highlighting its collective effort to rebound from such a crushing regular season opener.
“I think our guys made a number of improvements, and there’s not a doubt that it was done across the board,” Franklin said. “Our guys made some plays, and I felt like we made the plays we needed to make. I still feel like we left some plays out there, and I would’ve loved to see what we could’ve done with different weather conditions. But we played a style of game that we needed to play.”
Franklin’s comments seemed genuine, and his demeanor was that of a very relieved head coach. Yes, the opponent was Buffalo, and yes, the Bulls hung around in the first half. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Franklin’s team responded with conviction in the second half, and improved in the areas it needed to improve upon.
Consistency is a key element, and Penn State lacked it heavily last week against Temple. Against the Bulls, Penn State brought that element back into its identity. While it’s tough to say whether or not the team will continue to play consistently — especially against a much tougher Rutgers team it faces next week — one thing is for certain; Penn State laid a foundation. Now it’s time to build off that foundation, and carry that element of consistency with it as the season progresses.