Halfway through the 2020 season, Penn State now finds itself at 0-4 over the year and with a plethora of question marks.
Each of the Nittany Lions’ four losses share common themes, such as slow starts and brutal turnovers, but there was a subtle little glimmer of hope in Saturday’s loss. We dive into that and more in this week’s edition of three takeaways.
1) Will Levis must start against Iowa
Will Levis was absolutely not perfect for Penn State after coming to the aid of Sean Clifford on Saturday. Levis completed less than 50% of his passes against Nebraska and really struggled in the red zone where precise throws are a must. But he did a number of things well. First, he didn’t return the ball. Second, he created some great plays, most notably a 74-yard throw and a catch to Pat Freiermuth. By the time Lévis really got the offense moving it was always going to be difficult to come back, but the Nittany Lions came very close. It was clear the offense was more functional and more confident with him at the helm and while he’s not the long-term fix, he absolutely has to be QB1 against Iowa and possibly beyond.
2) The games are here to be made
I’ve seen a lot of heat so far this season on Kirk Ciarrocca and honestly I just don’t get it most of the time. After watching Maryland and Indiana games, Ciarrocca regularly called and designed games that left receivers open or a power play in the game at hand. Penn State’s problem has been that the receiver isn’t seen, either over-range, or the taxiways aren’t blocked properly. We saw when Lévis came in and ground play started, that the attack could move the ball. Even in QB’s third draw in the red zone with just over a minute left in the third quarter, Lévis had acres of space to walk if he saw the right hole.
Defense is another discussion, but the offensive pattern is clear can work if the players can perform correctly.
3) Maybe it’s time to switch from Brent Pry
So, I’m going to explain this point by saying that the defense really wasn’t that bad on Saturday. As against Indiana, Penn State kept the opposing offense to less than 300 total yards and, although it gave up 30 points, 10 of those games on a fumble recovered for a touchdown and on short ground after that. that should have been a choice of six. Overall, however, the defense just hasn’t been good enough. Too often, Penn State corners have played on Saturday, despite a QB struggling to throw his laundry into the basket with precision. The running defense only came in the second half and the pass didn’t rush. Once again, Penn State’s inability to prepare for the first semester cost it a ball game and we saw that become a theme under Pry.