EDITORIAL: Where Does Penn State Go from Here?
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The Nittany Lions are in a tough position, sitting 0-2 in the Big Ten.
It began in Bloomington, where Penn State went against the Indiana Hoosiers. Most fans, including myself, believed that James Franklin and company would walk out with a win. But I had a lingering feeling that this would become a trap game. It became what I feared.
What killed Penn State was themselves. They made too many mistakes that cost them that game. This includes three missed field goals by Jake Pinegar and Jordan Stout, multiple interceptions thrown by quarterback Sean Clifford, and the mental mistake made by running back Devyn Ford, as Ford scored a touchdown with one minute left, increasing the Nittany Lions’ lead to eight.
This would lead to a game-tying drive, led by Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr., that would send the game into overtime. The Nittany Lions went up seven to begin overtime, but the Hoosiers came out victorious after a controversial call where Penix Jr. reached for the pylon to score the game winning 2-point conversion.
After the heartbreaking loss to Indiana, Penn State went back to Beaver Stadium to take on the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in hopes of gaining an empowering win. It went as most people expected the game to go: domination for the Buckeyes.
The first play of the game was a 62-yard run by Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson. That would be the theme for the rest of the game. Justin Fields torched the defense by the air, and the Buckeyes running back room ran through the defense.
The Penn State offense was flat in the first half. Clifford had 29 passing yards on two completions. He passed seven times the entire half. The running game was completely silenced by the Ohio State defensive line, as the backfield only rushed for 44 total yards all game.
The offense did pick up momentum in the second half, but it was too little too late. Wide receiver Jahan Dotson had a game to remember, racking up eight receptions for 144 yards and three touchdowns. The junior’s scores all came in the second half for Penn State.
As the Nittany Lions fall into dead last in the Big Ten East division, they look forward to a Maryland team that is fresh off an emotional win against the Minnesota Golden Gophers 45-44. This can be a bounce-back win for head coach James Franklin and company, considering the Terrapins have not scored a touchdown against Penn State since 2016.
For the Nittany Lions to get back into the win column, they need to limit the mistakes, especially Clifford. The starting quarterback has three picks on the year, which came from forcing a play to happen. Clifford tries to make something out of nothing, which ends up harming the team. It was evident the past two games with the scrambles going nowhere and his three picks.
Along with limiting mistakes, the running back room needs to catch its footing. With the major losses of Journey Brown and Noah Cain, the run game took a massive decline in production.
The leading rusher for the team this year is Clifford, who has gained 124 yards on the ground. True freshmen Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee have seen action but have been limited to a few carries on the year. Overall, the running room has 294 rushing yards.
Still, this 0-2 hole is not something to worry about right now. The team is still adjusting to new offensive and defensive schemes thanks to the pandemic pausing activities in the spring. The team is still finding itself, and the game against Maryland will prove to be the defining game for this team.
If the mistakes continue, I believe Franklin has some major changes to do on the roster. Until then, the team must continue with the mentality to go 1-0.
Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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