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Poor Red Zone Performance Costs Penn State In Fourth Consecutive Loss

Penn State football put itself in a position to beat Nebraska on Saturday, but an inability to convert in the red zone left the Nittany Lions just short of their first win.

Penn State’s offense made six trips to the red zone but was only able to come away with one touchdown on the afternoon. Poor play-calling and an inexperienced quarterback let Nebraska play lock-down defense inside its 20-yard line all day.

That’s how the game ended, too. A collapsing offensive line amid a poorly designed play left Will Levis to just chuck the ball into the air as he was being sacked. If Penn State wants to be successful, it needs to come away with six more often in the red zone. James Franklin knows this, too.

“We’ve got to be more detailed in the passing game and we gotta be in the red zone offense,” Franklin said. “Some of those balls just got to be put in a position where our guys have a chance to go get it.”

The Nittany Lions barely gave their receivers the chance to go up and make a play.

Penn State had four downs from the 11 and the nine-yard lines, respectively, on its final two drives. The first drive resulted in four straight incompletions and a turnover, while the second ended with three incompletions and a sack.

If Penn State wants to commit to the passing game this hard late in the game, it needs to create better chances for its receivers to at least draw pass interference. Levis thinks his accuracy is to blame.

“It comes down to accuracy,” he said. “Some of my decisions were good, but the throws just weren’t there…when you get close to the goal, that’s just when technique and accuracy from the quarterback position really come down to.”

Levis said he anticipates the Nittany Lions will focus on their red zone performance during the week. Although Levis said he takes full credit for Penn State’s struggles near the end zone, it’s likely more of a full-team struggle.

Although its only red zone touchdown came from a Devyn Ford run, Penn State still stuck to the air during crunch time. James Franklin said success in the red zone isn’t just about a detailed passing game, but success with the rushing attack as well. When Nebraska expected only passes, it was able to anticipate the play and get to Levis quickly.

Penn State did convert three field goals from the red zone –– a solid performance from Jake Pinegar, who struggled earlier in the season. But if the Nittany Lions want to win football games, they need to turn those field goals into touchdowns.

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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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