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‘I’m Not Satisfied With It Thus Far’: Penn State Football’s Mike Yurcich Unhappy With Offensive Inefficiency

Drew Allar’s second throw as Penn State’s starting quarterback was a 72-yard touchdown to KeAndre Lambert-Smith. Since then, Allar hasn’t thrown a pass that gained more than 35 yards.

While the passing game was very much up in the air during the preseason — no one outside of the program knew what to expect from the young quarterback — the running backs were touted to pick up any slack Allar left behind.

However, the longest rush of the year, a 21-yard gain, doesn’t belong to a running back, but instead to backup quarterback Beau Pribula. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen have struggled to find holes in the defense and break away like they did last year, highlighting the offense’s main struggle through the first five games of the season: a lack of explosive plays.

Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich knows his offense is far from its ceiling, and the bye week will be a great opportunity to figure things out.

“We have to face the facts of what we need to get better at,” Yurcich said. “That’s how you get better. It’s a great opportunity for us in this off week to really self-scout ourselves.”

Even without the explosiveness, the offense is scoring. Penn State has now scored at least 30 points in each of its last 12 matchups dating back to last year’s contest with Michigan, where the Nittany Lions only managed 17 points.

Up until this year’s game with Northwestern, the lack of explosiveness was a concern, albeit not a major one. Then, the first half of the Northwestern game happened, and even mid-yardage gains were hard to come by in a half that saw Penn State move the ball more than 20 yards at a time only once.

Yurcich has faced an increasing amount of criticism through the past two games as the fanbase grows more and more uncomfortable with the way the offense has performed.

“I’m not satisfied with it thus far, we need to continue to grow there,” Yurcich said of his group’s explosiveness. “To a certain extent, being patient and methodically moving the football down the field is good to keep our defense off the field, but we know we have to be more explosive and we’re going to work real hard on it.”

James Franklin noted earlier in the season that his team needs to be more explosive and Yurcich echoed Franklin’s sentiment that it would continue to improve. Penn State hasn’t done so, and with only one game left before the Nittany Lions head to Columbus to face Ohio State, time is running out.

After Lambert-Smith’s 72-yard score, Allar has rarely even attempted to air the ball out. Allar completed a 33-yard pass against Illinois and a 35-yard strike against Northwestern, but that’s the extent of passing plays above 30 yards. During the fourth quarter against Northwestern, Allar attempted two deep shots to the end zone from the Northwestern 40-yard line. Neither was successful.

The passing game’s struggles can’t fall on any one person, as Allar has started to miss targets over the last three games and the receiving corps has been without its No. 2 pass-catcher in Trey Wallace. Allar was notably weak against Northwestern, finishing with a 54.5% completion rate on a day that saw a lot of miscommunication with receivers.

“It’s a big concern with me right now,” Yurcich said. “We’ve got to be on point with our landmarks and our depth of routes and our timing. That is something we’re going to address.”

It may seem arbitrary to critique an offense that’s handily dispatched every opponent it’s seen this season, but big plays are an important part of football. If the stat didn’t matter, Franklin wouldn’t include it in every one of his postgame statements.

As Penn State heads into the bye week, Yurcich said that even though his group has areas they need to improve, he’s not wholly disappointed with the level of play.

“I think our offense has to understand that we’re doing a lot of difficult things well,” Yurcich said. “We’re putting long drives together. We’re keeping the defense off the field. We’re playing winning football right now.”

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About the Author

CJ Doebler

CJ is a junior double majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. He is from Northumberland, Pa, just east of State College. CJ is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan, but chooses to ignore the Pirates' existence. For the occasional random retweet and/or bad take, follow @CDoebler on Twitter. All complaints can be sent to [email protected].

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