Penn State Football’s 2015 Season By The Numbers
12 games up, 12 games down. Seven were wins and five were losses, and a couple of those games were decided in the fourth quarter. Penn State football had a rocky season compared to most consumers’ expectations, which is why we’re going to take a closer look by the numbers.
99,799: The average attendance of a Penn State home game. Everyone preaches for #107kStrong every Saturday, but that figure was only reached three times out of seven home games. This is the third highest average attendance of the last five years: 2011 was the highest, 2012 and 2013 were the lowest (draw your own conclusions about those), then 2014 was the second highest as the excitement of a new coaching staff and sophomore star quarterback drew in more than 100,000 per game.
47/167, or 28 percent: Third down conversions. Penn State was miserable, especially towards the end of the season, moving the chains on third down. That’s only better than two teams out of 127 in the FBS: last year’s season-closer Boston College, and next year’s season-opener, Kent State. That leads us to our next statistic:
1: The number of offensive coordinators fired the day after the regular season ended. Sorry.
-569: The difference in Christian Hackenberg’s passing yards from his previous low. Hackenberg the freshman threw for 2,955 and the sophomore threw for 2,977, but this year he only mustered 2,386. Still, those all add up to be the highest career total for any Penn State quarterback. He has 7,719 for his career, 507 more than second place Zack Mills — and Hackenberg did it in one fewer season.
50: The number of points scored by the team’s leading scorer. Was it Saquon Barkley? No. Was it Chris Godwin or DaeSean Hamilton? Nope. It was Joey Julius, with 10 field goals and 20 extra points.
21.7: The points per game Penn State allowed. The figure is massively inflated by Michigan State dropping 55 points in Week 12, but before that, Penn State averaged 18.6, which would be 15th best in the country instead of 30th.
51-9, 34-49: The records of teams that beat Penn State and that were beat by Penn State. In other terms, the Nittany Lions beat bad teams (9-3 San Diego State is the clear best win, 6-6 Indiana was the only other .500 team). Penn State was a few coaching decisions and executed plays away from wins against Northwestern and Michigan — if it had pulled those off, it’d be 9-3 and its opponents’ records would be 32-4 and 51-56.
+16: For what it’s worth, Penn State’s scoring offense improved in the second year of the Franklin era. The team scored 16 more points but had 200 fewer yards.
20: Years since a wide receiver at Penn State not named Allen Robinson had a season as productive as Chris Godwin. Godwin very quietly had 63 catches for 968 yards, which is the seventh most in Nittany Lion history.
9: Penn State’s red zone offense was…ninth in the nation? Admittedly, that’s in a measure of how often a team scores in how many attempts, so field goals count — and boy oh boy did Penn State kick a lot of field goals in the red zone. The Nittany Lions’ 17 were the fifth most field goals in the red zone of any Division I team.
- Christian Hackenberg’s play over three years is very puzzling. He had his best touchdown-to-interception ratio by far (chronologically it was: 20-10, 12-15, 16-5), but also had his worst completion percentage. His 38 sacks were a minor improvement over last year’s 44, too.
- Penn State averaged 6.9 yards per pass, which is pretty nice.
- Almost every punt that either Dan Pasquariello or Chris Gulla sent was heavily criticized, but maybe we should’ve paid more attention to the teams that punted to Penn State. The Nittany Lions punted 75 times with an average yardage of 39.5, and their opponents punted 80 times with an average of 39.8. Both sides’ net punt averages were an identical 36.1.
- Penn State was No. 119 out of 127 with 39 sacks allowed, which sounds bad until you consider that it was a net positive in that statistic. Led by Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Carl Nassib, the Nittany Lions totaled a nation-leading 44 sacks, so as often as Hackenberg went down, the opposing quarterbacks went down even more.
- The Nittany Lions’ +5 turnover differential was tied for 36th in the nation. If the Michigan State game never happened (and the Lions didn’t have a -4 differential in the game), Penn State would be No. 15.
- Penn State couldn’t turn the takeaways into points like its opponents could. It was outscored 58-57, and even more obvious is the effect on momentum that statistic had in games.
- For whatever reason, Penn State came out of halftime flat. The third quarter was the only one in which James Franklin’s team was outscored, holding scoring differentials of +25, +18, -22, and +3 from the first to the fourth quarter.
- Tight end production dropped off significantly from 2014 to 2015. That was bound to happen with the graduation of Jesse James, but when Kyle Carter, Mike Gesicki, Brent Wilkerson, and Adam Breneman combine 100 fewer yards than James had (and none making a noticeable difference in the blocking game), it almost offsets the production of players like Godwin.
The last stat to include is 2: the consecutive years in which Penn State has made a bowl game. Stay tuned for December 6 when the Nittany Lions find out where they’re heading this postseason.
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About the Author
Clifford will take the job left vacant by Trace McSorley, who went 31-9 as the Nittany Lions’ QB1 in three seasons at the helm of the team’s offense.
2019 seems to break a trend for Penn State football, which usually named just three captains per season (one on offense, defense, and special teams).
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