Penn State’s Offense Remains Streaky In Win Over Northwestern

Well, it wasn’t pretty, but Penn State escaped Beaver Stadium with a 17-7 win in the end.

Penn State’s defense showed up in big spots throughout the entire game, but the same can’t be said for the offense that was plagued by five turnovers. It wasn’t only the turnovers that caused problems, though, as the unit was never really able to find a good flow throughout the game.

It’s much easier said than done to have an efficient offense with some disruptive weather that the Nittany Lions got on Saturday. Still, there were times when the offense just couldn’t execute when it needed to, especially in short-yardage situations.

Everything seemed fine for Penn State heading into halftime, as the team led 14-0 over the Wildcats. The team amassed 202 total yards on offense, 121 rushing and 81 passing. But it was a different story in the second half. The Nittany Lions totaled only 158 yards in the second half, with 49 coming in the fourth quarter. The passing and rushing game both fell off.

As Northwestern started to claw back into the game with a late third-quarter touchdown, the Nittany Lions had multiple chances to ice the game with a score or a late drive, especially with the defense forcing Northwestern to turn the ball over on downs three times in the fourth quarter. What was the result of that, though? Two punts and a fumble.

James Franklin, while happy with the fact that the team came away with a victory, won’t let the weather be an excuse for the offense’s struggles.

“The weather will never be an excuse for us,” Franklin said in his postgame press conference. “We obviously need to continue working there. We don’t go inside [to practice] when it rains. Sometimes, [players] will look at me and ask ‘Well, what do we have the indoor for?’ That’s why.”

It didn’t really seem like the weather affected the team that much in the second half, as the rain started to mostly subside. It was still wet, regardless, but not as bad as the first half.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the offense from the fans’ perspective was the lack of third-down conversions. The Nittany Lions were one-for-five in the first half and three-for-ten in the second half, totaling 4-for-15 overall.

Sean Clifford wasn’t pleased with his overall performance, but he was happy the team was able to escape with a win on Saturday, as well.

“It was gritty,” Clifford said in his postgame press conference. “The rain was so on and off today that it was tough to get in a flow. But I’m just glad we’re 5-0. That’s all that matters.”

Five games into the season, it seems like Penn State has won all five games in different ways. Even though this one was closer than people would have liked, the Nittany Lions still found a way to win in a new way.

“We’ve won in a lot of different ways, and I think there’s value in that,” Franklin said after the game. “I’d love for them all to be pretty wins and sexy wins. But that’s not the game we play.”

Now, Penn State will head into the bye week before facing No. 4 Michigan in the Big House two weeks from now. The Nittany Lions will try to win in Ann Arbor with fans for the first time since 2009. Even though the team displayed some offensive struggles today, Sean Clifford is still more than confident in the Nittany Lions.

“We’re 5-0. So yeah, I do,” Clifford said when asked if he feels the team has momentum heading into the game.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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