STATE COLLEGE — At various times during the offseason, Penn State’s offensive players gushed when describing the new system under first-year coordinator Mike Yurcich.
Fast, up-tempo and exciting were just a few of the words used when offering takes on the Yurcich-crafted schemes. After two games this season, fans of the program are finally seeing what earned the offense such praise earlier this year.
Penn State ended Saturday’s game with 253 yards passing and 230 yards rushing as the Nittany Lions defeated Ball State, 44-13. The new offense averaged 6.2 yards per play.
“I just thought this week on first and second down, offensively, we were more effective, so it created more advantageous third-down situations,” Penn State coach James Franklin said after the game. “I think we actually picked up more first downs on first and second downs — not even getting to third down — and that’s helpful, too. I just thought we were more balanced; we were more efficient.”
Entering the third week, the Yurcich offense has shown early signs of also being complementary. The Nittany Lions have accumulated 23 passing first downs, while 17 of their first downs have come on the ground.
Three Nittany Lion rushers finished with more than 60 yards against the Cardinals: Noah Cain (69 yards, one touchdown), Keyvone Lee (68 yards) and quarterback Sean Clifford (66 yards, one touchdown). Penn State averaged 5 yards per carry last week, and seven Nittany Lions recorded touches.
The Nittany Lions have deployed multiple formations during the first two weeks of the season. In their first drive of the game against Ball State, offensive packages featured two-back sets, multiple tight ends, and Clifford lined up under center. His 1-yard touchdown run during the Nittany Lions’ second drive of the game came on a snap taken from center.
“We had one of the hardest camps ever, so I already knew all the personnel packages we could use,” Penn State running back Noah Cain said. “I knew all of the talent we had on our offense. … Coach Yurcich always tells us to be ready for anything, so we have to prepare and study different personnel packages.”
Following the theme of variety, 10 Nittany Lions caught balls against the Cardinals. Parker Washington (six), Jahan Dotson (five), Cain (two) and Theo Johnson (two) all had multiple receptions, while six players pulled one apiece.
“We have a lot of options,” Washington said this week. “It just makes it fun, for sure, just being able to see how we can throw deep passes. We just have to connect more. But you see how there are different ways to score, and not just one option. We do a lot of different types of plays, so I’m just excited to see that, and it’s just fun for me every week.”
The Nittany Lions scored on four of their five first-half drives Saturday, and the Ball State defense produced just two three-and-outs. Penn State showed it could score when it needed to, as its quickest scoring drive spanned 97 seconds; it also displayed the ability to grind out the clock when needed with a 5:32 scoring drive.
Cain, Penn State’s feature back, said Yurcich has revealed only a glimpse of what his offense encompasses.
“You guys are going to see more and more different formations and all of that in the coming weeks,” Cain said.