Execution key for Lions in red zone
Nobody knows the statistics better than Joe Moorhead.
Nobody can rattle them off more readily than Penn State’s secondyear offensive coordinator. Nobody can use them to make a point more effectively.
So, when someone points out his Nittany Lions have struggled in short-yardage situations and on those critical plays run nearest to their opponent’s end zone, Moorhead will answer quickly. Essentially, he’ll point out, those issues were limited to a few plays on a few drives on one night in Iowa against one of the Big Ten’s stingier defenses.
“In non-goal-line situations this year on third-and-short, we’re 6-of-9 and 2-for-2 on fourth down. So, we’re 8-for-11 in short-yardage situations,” he said.
And what about those red zone troubles for Penn State?
“Red zones right now, we’re 16-of-18 and 13-of-18 on touchdowns, which is probably upper middle pack,” he went on.
There are issues with the Nittany Lions offense, and Moorhead knows them. He knows it needs to be better in the goal-line situations. He knows that, for a championship contender, hovering around a 40 percent success rate on third- and fourth-down conversions isn’t going to cut it for long. He knows most of all that 13 touchdowns on 18 trips inside is hardly a maximizing of his offense’s talent.
For this offense to get better where it has to get better, he also knows that it doesn’t need something it already doesn’t have. Not a fullback. Not a quarterback under center. Just a more physical attitude and a commitment to refining the details of every play.
“I don’t think you can put a finger on anything and say it’s one certain thing,” Moorhead said. “But we have to do a good job making sure we’re putting them in a position to be successful. And when we make a good call, go out and execute it.”
Good calls aren’t more difficult to make inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. But they’re more difficult to execute.
It’s inaccurate to call Penn State’s difficulties red zone struggles. On the six plays the Nittany Lions ran from the Iowa 11 through its 20 last weekend, they gained 25 yards.
On the seven plays they ran from the Iowa 6 to the Iowa 10, they gained 28.
That’s better than four yards per play, in both instances.
But that number dipped dramatically inside the 5. On five plays in that close-tothe-goal range, the Nittany Lions gained no yards and didn’t find the end zone.
Moorhead has made clear from his hiring that Penn State’s offense won’t be a traditional one as long as he’s in charge. He confirmed there isn’t even a fullback on the roster, never mind one that could go into the game on shortyardage situations. He added that quarterback Trace McSorley takes every snap in practice out of the shotgun, which makes going under center in those critical situations seem needlessly risky.
What Penn State has to do inside the 5 to be more successful, he said, is rather simple.
Be better than it has been. Execute.