Penn State’s Tight Ends Help Balance Offensive Attack In White Out Win

Penn State is back in the win column, folks.

The Nittany Lions took down Michigan 45-17 in the White Out Saturday night at Beaver Stadium. It was a close 3-0 game in the first half, but James Franklin and Co. finally broke the game open with a 38-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Warren, and that seemed to be the theme for the rest of the night, as Penn State’s tight ends ended the night with 114 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight catches.

It was a struggle for Penn State to get some offensive momentum early on in the game, as it felt like the offense from last week’s loss to Michigan had carried over. The Nittany Lions’ first three drives traveled only a combined 14 yards on eight plays, with two punts and an interception.

After eventually tying the game up on a field, Sean Clifford finally found the team’s much-needed touchdown score with a 38-yard dart to Warren to give Penn State its first lead of the game.

That touchdown seemed to jumpstart Penn State’s offense into a scoring streak. That ended up being Warren’s only score of the game, but Theo Johnson started to get in on the action after that, as well. Johnson finished the game with five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, including an 18-yard touchdown reception on the drive following Warren’s score. That catch put Penn State up 17-3 with four minutes left in the half.

Last night’s win was the first big game for Johnson this season. The Windsor, Ontario native missed the team’s first couple of games due to an undisclosed injury and has been relatively quiet since returning back on the field. Coming into the game, he only had two catches for 19 yards on the season.

Head coach James Franklin was certainly pleased with his performance.

“He played well,” Franklin said in his postgame press conference. “We expect that from him, and I’m happy for him. He has that type of ability.”

Franklin went on to mention that there was a bit of an emphasis on getting the tight ends involved during the game, due to how Minnesota was reacting to Penn State’s schemes.

“There’s going to be weeks, based on game planning and matchups, that you emphasize a certain position group or a certain guy,” Franklin said. “A lot of times, it just depends on how the defense plays out where the ball goes. So, it was a little bit of an emphasis, but it’s not like we did anything different tonight.”

The group’s impact goes further than it does just on the stats sheet, though. Getting that group involved helped to really balance out Penn State’s passing attack and utilize all areas of the field. When the team has the tight ends, wide receivers, and running backs firing on all cylinders, it makes everyone’s life easier on both sides of the ball, and that’s what we saw last night. The tight ends certainly felt that effect last night.

“I think it felt great,” Johnson said talking about the tight ends’ production in his postgame press conference. “We’ve said for a while now that we’re confident that we have one of the best tight end rooms in the country. It feels good to finally be able to show that to everybody else. So it felt good to see everybody out there making plays and doing big things.”

Brenton Strange got in on the action too with only one catch for five yards after serving as the busiest tight end all season long, but that changed last night. Sean Clifford has three different tight ends with different strengths to use at his disposal, which is a massive advantage for Penn State’s offense. If the Nittany Lions can keep the production up, the offense could be quite dangerous.

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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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