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Penn State Special Teams Bounces Back After Abysmal Start

Following one of the worst special teams performances in the James Franklin era, Penn State football bounced back Saturday against Ohio State.

Although the special teams’ play was one of the only positive takeaways from the Nittany Lions’ 38-25 loss to the Buckeyes, it’s a good sign that they were able to clean something up after a sloppy Indiana game. The season opener in Bloomington was an all-around nightmare for special teams coordinator Joe Lorig’s unit.

The return game was ugly on both sides of the ball against the Hoosiers. Lamont Wade dropped a kick return on the five-yard line, which led to an interception. Jahan Dotson muffed a punt as well. The Nittany Lions’ defense also let Reese Taylor turn a Jordan Stout dime into a 21-yard punt return.

Penn State’s kickers, who typically are quite reliable, had a tough day in Bloomington. Jake Pinegar missed kicks from 25 and 47 yards out, while Jordan Stout came up just short on a potential game-winner from 57. Despite such an uncharacteristic performance from the kicking unit, long snapper Chris Stoll wasn’t worried in-between week one and week two.

“I don’t think we’ve changed much from Indiana to this week,” Stoll said Wednesday. “We’re getting more reps here or there, watching more film, and just keep doing our thing…I have full confidence in Jake and Jordan.”

Stoll was right. It appears Indiana was just a fluke for Stout and Pinegar, who turned things around against Ohio State.

Pinegar chipped one in from 31 in the first quarter and Stout contributed an impressive 50-yarder to close out the first half. Pinegar was perfect on extra points, and Stout contributed four booming touchbacks to no one’s surprise.

On the other side of the ball, Penn State’s defense gave the Buckeyes’ kicking unit hell. Blake Haubeil missed a field goal from just 20 yards and Dominic DiMaccio shanked one from 23 as well. Although the Nittany Lions didn’t get a hand on the ball either time, their effort was able to disrupt Ohio State’s kickers enough to miss two fields that should’ve been a lock.

The Buckeyes didn’t net a single yard in the return game, either. But the Nittany Lions returns, or lack thereof, continued to be an issue. Parker Washington took one kick out for 16 yards while calling fair catches on balls he caught at the 4 and 5-yard lines. Obviously, this is an improvement over Lamont Wade’s mishaps against Indiana, but Penn State would benefit from having a true return threat like KJ Hamler or Saquon Barkley.

After Penn State handed its brand-new jersey No. 0 to Jonathan Sutherland, a special teams player, players like Stoll thought it was symbolic for the team’s attention to detail and strong special teams play.

“I think a lot of guys, with this new tradition, will see how much coach Franklin puts an emphasis towards special teams,” Stoll said before the season. “I think more guys will want to worker harder and show they can impact the field not just on offense and defense.”

Although this didn’t hold true against Indiana, Penn State obviously focused on special teams during the week and cleaned things up against Ohio State. We’ll see if this trend continues against Maryland Saturday, which will kick off at noon on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected]

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