Penn State Football’s Offense Flexing Prompt Versatility
Penn State’s 38-15 win over West Virginia Saturday night went about as well as it could’ve.
The Nittany Lions put on an offensive clinic on national television, as first-time starting quarterback Drew Allar threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns. It was a stunning performance that involved nine different pass catchers, including six wide receivers, who accounted for all but 25 of the Nittany Lions’ receiving yardage.
However, Allar only completed one pass to a tight end: a nine-yard completion to Tyler Warren. After years with a wealth of talent at the tight end position, Penn State was expected to utilize its tight ends throughout the season. Instead, the omission of one of the Nittany Lions’ best position groups stood out.
The opportunities to involve the tight ends more often just didn’t arise. Neither Warren nor fellow tight end Theo Johnson seemed to be open much throughout the game, and Allar was forced to look through his other options.
“We’re not just going to force the ball to somebody if they’re not open,” James Franklin said. “We did have one specific route that was called that’s going to go to a tight end, and that’s the primary throw, and we got sacked on that play.”
Franklin and his staff aren’t trying to ignore the team’s tight ends. They’re simply looking for the team’s options that will give them the best chance on the field. If any player won’t give them a better chance of winning, there’s no reason that the Nittany Lions will keep trying to feed that player.
“If you look at our notes on Sunday and Monday, it’s ‘how do we get the ball to Theo and Tyler,’ but the reality is I think our production on Saturday shows that we want to spread the ball around,” he said.
The tight ends weren’t the only position group excluded from action Saturday. Penn State running back duo Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen were predicted to dominate the field. The expectation entering the game was that both running backs could each rush for more than 100 yards against the Mountaineers. Instead, they combined for 121 rushing yards and one touchdown.
The Nittany Lions’ inattention to the tight ends, running backs, and even backup quarterback Beau Pribula, who came in the game for a garbage-time touchdown, might not be a pervasive element of the season. Franklin’s game plan will likely change on a week-by-week basis, and he’ll push whatever buttons he has to in order to win.
“We have a plan to get the ball to our playmakers every single week, but then once you get to the game, you’re going to take what the defense gives you and not force the ball to any players,” Franklin said.
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