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Penn State Football’s Offense Remains Consistent In Iowa Victory

There was never a doubt, but there were some tense moments in Penn State football’s 31-0 win over Iowa Saturday.

A Nittany Lion offense that has plenty of firepower — three of the nation’s best players at their respective positions in the backfield, two productive tight ends, and an experienced offensive line — struggled to put points on the board in the first half.

A failed flea-flicker attempt that nearly saw KeAndre Lambert-Smith lose a dozen yards highlighted Penn State’s offensive struggles, but the play was called back on a penalty against the Hawkeyes. It was paired with miscommunication between quarterback Drew Allar and his wide receivers, an issue that appears to be becoming a trend after Penn State’s win over Illinois a week prior.

As with the Illinois game, Penn State went into the locker room at halftime looking unconvincing on the offensive side of the ball. Against the Fighting Illini, the Nittany Lions scored 16 points in the first half, though nine of those points came from field goals. In the first half Saturday, Penn State put up just 10 points, albeit against one of the nation’s highly-respected defenses.

But Penn State didn’t lose its mojo. The Nittany Lions put together a strong third quarter, as they so often have this season, and began to run away with the game. Some would call it a halftime reset. James Franklin said it’s consistent offensive play-calling.

“I think our kids settled down,” Franklin said after the White Out. “I think we got a pretty good idea of what they did well, and I thought Mike [Yurcich] did a really good job of calling and not getting bored against an Iowa defense who is damn good and not get bored of the plays that were consistently getting us five to six yards and coming back to them.”

That patience and consistency has been key for Penn State’s offense as of late. The Nittany Lions aren’t always exciting to watch, but they’ve gotten the job done through the first four games. The win over Iowa marked the 11th straight game that Penn State has put up 30 points against its opponent — the longest active streak in FBS football.

Penn State isn’t exciting because it doesn’t have those big plays that get a crowd going, though. Allar threw four touchdown passes against the Hawkeyes but only finished the game with 166 passing yards. The running backs have struggled to generate rushes longer than 20 yards, and Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen finished the game with 2.9 and 3.4 yards per carry, respectively.

While it isn’t generating massive plays, Penn State is doing one thing right: it has yet to turn over the ball. There have been some close calls — a fumble recovered by the offense here, a drop by a defensive back there — but the Nittany Lions are now the only team in Division I football to not give up a turnover. It’s been one of Franklin’s favorite stats this season.

“I do think we’re doing a really good job of respecting the ball in general,” Franklin said. “We’ve talked about the ball being the program. When the other team has the ball, we’re not happy about it and we’re trying to get it back and do everything we can and we’ve done a good job of that with turnovers. And then, when you’re carrying the ball, whoever it is, you’re carrying the entire program, and everybody’s hopes and dreams within the program are in your hands.”

Penn State’s offense isn’t perfect, but it has done what it needs to do through the first four weeks of the season. It’s played its own style of football en route to four wins and a No. 6 ranking in the latest AP poll. The team might not be fun to watch on TV, but it’s good enough to keep putting notches in the win column.

“We did not win the explosive-play battle,” Franklin said. “But I do think we grinded that game out, which when you’re playing a team like Iowa, you can’t get bored of grinding it out.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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