Penn State Football Early Season Evaluation

Audio/Story posted September 25, 2019 in CommRadio, Sports by Mike Brown

Connor Griffin, Zach Donaldson and Tommy Calpin give an early season evaluation of the Penn State Nittany Lions’ strengths and weaknesses thus far.

Although Penn State will likely begin conference play undefeated, the strength of the team will be tested this Friday night against the Maryland Terrapins. A hefty win over Idaho combined with two relatively narrow wins against Buffalo and Pitt leave Penn State fans with lots to think about. What are some reasons to panic? What are some things to look forward to? Let’s answer those questions.

Reasons to Panic

As seen in the Penn State’s first three contests, the most apparent issue with the team seems to be the lackluster offense. The frequently poor play calling combined with a subpar offensive line has led to a lack of identity. The Nittany Lions have not been able to distinguish themselves as a team that can overpower the ground game, beat opposing safeties with the deep ball, or fluster the opponent with a combination of both. As Penn State’s competition gets progressively better, the offensive line needs to step up in order for the team to be a threat on the ground.

First-time starting quarterback Sean Clifford has also shown signs of inexperience early on. He has had trouble recognizing the blitz and has often found himself underthrowing to his receivers. All of these reasons have given the Nittany difficulty in moving the chains, creating a domino effect of frequent punts and field goals.

Reasons for Excitement

Penn State’s defense has certainly showed more promise than the offense so far. The pass rush has put pressure on opposing teams’ quarterbacks, forcing them to make mistakes. The defense has only allowed an average of 10 points per game, which ranks in the top 10 among all FBS teams. Although there’s room for improvement in the pass coverage department, the defense in general has shown a constant upward slope of improvement throughout nonconference play.

On the offensive side of the ball, the wide receivers have also made huge strides from last season. Wide receivers such as KJ Hamler and Justin Shorter have not only made key catches on third down and in the red zone, but they’ve also shown their football IQ by blocking defenders downfield on running plays.

Final Evaluation

Even though there are some reasons to panic, Penn State fans should still keep an optimistic view for the remainder of the season. Keep in mind that the team is very young and somewhat inexperienced, so its performance so far can be seen as the start of the learning curve. As their schedule moves through the heart of the Big Ten in the coming weeks, we will see how resilient the Nittany Lions are.


Mike Brown is a freshman majoring in advertisement and public relations. To contact him, email