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Penn State football: looking at the offensive improvements made in 2022

The Nittany Lions’ offense finally got back on track after underperforming in 2020 and 2021.



Oct 22, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Nicholas Singleton (10) breaks a tackle while running with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Minnesota 45-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

From 2016-2019, Penn State football boasted one of the most electric offenses in the Big Ten. During the COVID-19 season in 2020, the Nittany Lions’ offense took a massive step backwards in both the passing and rushing departments. A year later, not much had changed. This season, however, Penn State finally got back to its usual self.

Nittany Lions boast an electric offense in the late 2010s

After the sanctions on Penn State football were lifted, James Franklin and Co. were off and running. Penn State finished the 2016 season with an 11-3 record and a Big Ten Championship, and followed it up with two more 11-win seasons in the years that followed. In 2017, Penn State finished 11-2 (Fiesta Bowl Champs), went 9-4 in 2018, and got back to 11-2 (Cotton Bowl Champs) in 2019.

2019 season

In 2019, Sean Clifford’s first season as Penn State’s starter, the Nittany Lions finished the season 11-2 overall with a win over Memphis in the Cotton Bowl. A lot of Penn State’s success that year can be credited to its offensive production both through the air and on the ground.

Despite not having a single 1,000-yard rusher, Penn State still ran for over 2,400 yards and was led by Journey Brown, who had 890 yards on 129 carries (6.9 yards per carry). Through the air, a sophomore Sean Clifford threw for 2,654 yards, 23 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Clifford’s passer rating was 148.5 — the highest of his college career (as a starter).

Overall, Penn State football finished the year with the No. 15 total offense nationally, which averaged nearly 36 points-per-game through the Lions’ 13 games that season. In order to get to this point, PSU passed for around 221 yards-per-game and ran for over 190 yards-per-game.


2020 season

A year after Penn State won it’s second New Year’s Six bowl since 2017, the Nittany Lions came into the COVID-19 season with high hopes. Those hopes were crushed in Week 1 with an ugly (and controversial) loss at Indiana. Over the next four weeks, Penn State football remained winless in the program’s worst start of all-time. PSU began the 2020 season 0-5 overall.

This streak snapped in Week 6 at the Nittany Lions knocked off Michigan in Ann Arbor, 27-17. PSU built off of its win over U-M with three more wins to finish the season with a 4-5 overall record. 2020 was Penn State’s first losing season since the early 2000s during Joe Paterno’s infamous dark years.

Penn State football finished the 2020 season with the No. 54 total offense in the nation, which averaged under 30 points-per-game. The Nittany Lions threw for 256 yards-per-game and rushed for 174 yards-per-game. Notably, Penn State also averaged nearly two turnovers per game.

Sean Clifford took a step backwards with a 137.4 passer rating after throwing for nearly 1,900 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. On the ground, Penn State’s offense failed to have a single ball-carrier go over 440 yards. The Nittany Lions saw one player have a 100-yard game: Keyvone Lee (at Michigan).

Despite Penn State’s struggles in 2020, most shook it off. It was only the COVID year after all, and no one takes that season too seriously.

2021 season

From Week 1, it was clear that Penn State’s offense was going to struggle again. Despite going on the road and beating No. 12 Wisconsin in Week 1, most of the win can be attributed to the Nittany Lions’ defense. Penn State walked away with a 16-10 win over the Badgers, the first win of Penn State’s 5-0 start.

Despite getting into the top-4 with a 5-0 record at midseason, Penn State football saw a series of costly injuries and finished 7-6 overall. The Lions’ final game of the season was perhaps its worst offensive performance of the season: a 24-10 loss to Arkansas in the Outback Bowl.

After the 2020 season, it was hard to imagine that the Nittany Lions’ offense could have been a whole lot worse. That being said, Penn State went from the No. 54 total offense in 2020 to No. 90 in 2021. Sean Clifford’s solid start turned into another poor season after a rib injury at Iowa, and his passer rating took yet another step down. Clifford finished the season with a 134.4 passer rating, over 3,100 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

On the ground, the Nittany Lions saw more regression as well. Penn State football finished the year with 1,402 yards on the ground — one of the worst in the nation. Its leading rusher was Keyvone Lee, who carried the ball 108 times for 530 yards and two touchdowns.

PSU averaged 25 points-per-game (yuck), with 269 passing yards-per-game and 108 rushing yards-per-game. Overall, the 2021 Penn State offense can be summed up in two words: piss poor. It was just plain bad, and it was largely to blame for the Nittany Lions’ 2-6 record in its final eight games of the season.

Penn State football back on track in 2022

This season, no one was sure of what the offense would do. That being said, many had little hope for Penn State’s offense. Still, the Nittany Lions delivered with a massive 11-2 season which saw Penn State’s offense climb its way back into the top-20.

PSU opened the year with four-straight 30+ point performances, including a 35-31 win at Purdue, a 41-12 win at Auburn, a 46-10 win over Ohio, and a 33-14 win over Central Michigan. Penn State only scored less than 30 points twice this season: Northwestern (monsoon game, 17 points), and at Michigan (17 points). Aside from those two games, Penn State’s next-worst offensive performance was in its 30-0 win over Maryland.

The Nittany Lions’ offense ranks No. 20 nationally and averages 35.8 points-per-game. 6th-year quarterback Sean Clifford threw for over 2,800 yards, 24 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in a tremendous bounce-back season to finish his collegiate career.

Penn State football boasts a pair of incredible true freshman out of the backfield: Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton. Both freshman went over 1,000 total yards this season and truly elevated Penn State’s offense this season. Nick Singleton also became the Nittany Lions’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2018 (Miles Sanders). This offensive jump from 2021 to 2022 was a massive 70-spot improvement and got PSU back on track.

Penn State football won 11 games and a New Year’s Six game for the first time since 2019, will finish in the top-10 yet again, and won the program its first Rose Bowl since 1995. There are big things coming for PSU, and seeing this massive offensive jump was crucial for Penn State football going forward.


*Stats: ESPN, Sports Reference


Penn State football yet to name a starting quarterback heading into summer camp

The Penn State football starting quarterback situation remains unresolved heading into the summer.



Penn State football starting quarterback, Drew Allar, James Franklin
Apr 15, 2023; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) walks off the field following the competition of the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. The Blue team defeated the White team 10-0. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Yesterday, the media was invited back to State College to speak with a few members of the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff for the first time since the Blue/White game in mid-April. During the press conference, head coach James Franklin was asked about the unresolved QB situation, which was last discussed during his previous media appearance. His response was straightforward: there is currently no designated Penn State football starting quarterback.

Penn State football starting quarterback yet to be named ahead of summer ball

This fall, the Blue and White will have a new quarterback for the first time since 2018. For the past four years, Sean Clifford, the Lions’ former 6th-year QB, was assumed to be the Penn State football starting quarterback ahead of all four seasons.

Throughout the offseason, the competition has been primarily between two individuals: Drew Allar and Beau Pribula, both entering their second season with the Nittany Lions. However, head coach James Franklin emphasizes that the starting quarterback position for Penn State football is still up for grabs as the team heads into summer ball.

“I think really every year it’s the same philosophy,” James Franklin said on Thursday. “I think sometimes it’s assumed, which, I get it, but it’s competition at every position. A lot of things can happen between now and the season; even when Sean Clifford was here … he was competing for the starting job every single year. If he would get beat out, that was his problem, not mine.

“We have competition at every single position every single year, returning starter or not,” Franklin continued. “I think that’s the right thing to do — not only for our entire program, but I also think for the starter.”

Drew Allar is expected to take over despite the decision pending

While James Franklin is yet to name a starting quarterback for the 2023 season, it is widely assumed that former five-star prospect Drew Allar, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2022 class, will secure the position and become the starting quarterback for Penn State football.

Blue and White fans have been eagerly anticipating the start of the Allar era in Happy Valley for years. If everything goes as expected, fans won’t have to wait much longer, as the Nittany Lions will kick off their 2023 season against West Virginia in just 85 days.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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2023 Penn State football offensive line ranked in top 10

Today, the 2023 Penn State football offensive line was ranked among the nation’s top 10.



2023 Penn State football offensive line
Sep 18, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) gestures from the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Today, new rankings were released by 247 Sports, a trusted publication in the world of college athletics, which ranked the 2023 Penn State football offensive line among the top 10 best units in the nation. A season ago, the Nittany Lions’ offensive line showed shocking improvement as they helped lead the Blue and White to an impressive 11-2 campaign, which was capped with a Rose Bowl win over Utah.

2023 Penn State football offensive line ranked among top 10 nationally

In 2021, the Penn State football offensive line was perhaps as bad as it has ever been, leading to a stagnant rushing attack, an injured quarterback, and overall offensive failure. As a result, the Blue and White made a few staff changes, and these new faces, combined with rising young talents like Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, brought the Nittany Lions back to success on the offensive side of the football.

For the first time since 2018, Penn State had a 1,000-yard rusher, and they nearly had two of them. Additionally, Sean Clifford had a chance to make decisions and throw the ball with his feet set, resulting in an improved passing game and overall success. By the end of the season, Penn State football had 11 wins, with all but one of those wins being blowouts, including the Lions’ huge win in the Rose Bowl.

Heading into the new season, the expectations for the Blue and White are growing higher and higher. The 2023 Penn State football offensive line is projected to be even bigger and better than the 2022 line. If the Nittany Lions expect to appear in the College Football Playoff or make a run at the Big Ten title this year, it will start with their performance up front.

According to today’s new rankings from 247 Sports, the 2023 Penn State football offensive line ranks among the nation’s top 10, coming in at No. 8 ahead of the new season. Fans will get their first glimpse of this new-look offensive line this fall when the Nittany Lions host the West Virginia Mountaineers at Beaver Stadium in State College, PA.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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Penn State football: Best wins over 2023 opponents – Iowa

It took all 60 minutes – literally – but Penn State football escaped this game at Kinnick with a victory.



Penn State Football, Iowa
Sep 23, 2017; Iowa City, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) jumps over Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Joshua Jackson (15) and defensive back Amani Hooker (27) as Nittany Lions wide receiver Juwan Johnson (84) looks to block during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Penn State won 21-19. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Today, we continue our series of the best Penn State football wins over 2023 opponents with Iowa. Penn State’s best wins over the Hawkeyes have come at the price of some heartache as well. The two schools met nine times before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, with Penn State winning six matchups.

Starting conference play, it seemed the Nittany Lions would continue this advantage, winning four of their first five contests with the Hawkeyes. But then the trouble started. Iowa dominated the series in the early 2000s. Some of the major letdowns include the infamous 6-4 game and a heartbreaking last-second loss in 2008 that cost the Nittany Lions a shot at the national championship.

Since 2011 Penn State has won most of the matchups, but the last contest in 2021 left a bad taste in the mouths of Nittany Lions fans. Penn State will look to cleanse that in this year’s matchup in Happy Valley under the lights of a Beaver Stadium White Out.

However, of all the matchups, there is one game and resulting Nittany Lion victory that stands out in this series. This would be the 2017 contest in Kinnick.

Saquon Barkley was an inhuman force for Penn State football

A game in Kinnick Stadium is never easy. The fans are raucous and sit right on top of the players. The stadium’s design literally puts the stands as close to the sidelines as possible. If it is a night game, then the atmosphere turns up tenfold.

That is precisely what the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions faced in 2017. Both teams entered the contest undefeated, and the Hawkeyes had developed a reputation for upsets. Iowa’s last three home contests against top-five foes all ended in victories. The Hawkeyes looked to make Penn State its latest victim on this late September night.

But Saquon Barkley did his part and then some to ensure the Nittany Lions would be on the winning end. He finished the game with 211 yards on the ground with a touchdown, and added 12 receptions for 94 yards. His standout play of the night was this beauty that has gone down in Penn State football folklore.

It took all 60 minutes to beat Iowa

The game was quite sluggish to start. The teams traded punts through most of the first half, with Penn State converting a field goal, missing another, and getting a safety to lead 5-0 late in the second quarter. Then Trace McSorley would throw an interception, setting up the Hawkeyes deep in Nittany Lion territory. Iowa converted the opportunity into a touchdown to take a 7-5 halftime lead.

The Nittany Lions led 15-7 after three frames. But then the Iowa offense finally woke up. Running back Akrum Wadley scored two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, giving Iowa a 19-15 lead with just one minute and 42 seconds remaining in the game.

It looked like the Hawkeyes would pull another upset against a top-five foe. That is, until McSorley, Barkley, and the Penn State offense went on one magical final drive. Juwan Johnson’s touchdown catch, the first of his career, silenced the Kinnick crowd as time expired. 

Penn State won and kept its College Football Playoff hopes alive for several more weeks, until back-to-back close losses against Ohio State and Michigan State dashed those dreams. But the Nittany Lions finished the season with an 11-2 record and a win over Washington in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite the season not ending in a playoff berth, the game against Iowa is one Nittany Lion fans still remember fondly.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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