Sitting Dead Red: Penn State's Offense Has Been Deadly in the Red Zone in 2018

By Nick Polak on September 16, 2018 at 12:19 pm
Sep 15, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions offensive linesmen C.J. Thorpe (69) lifts running back Ricky Slade (4) into the air after he scored a touchdown during the third quarter against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Kent State 63-10.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

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Over the past three years, fans have become accustomed to seeing James Franklin's team humiliate teams with big plays and deep balls. They were and are one of the most explosive offenses in the country and fans were very used to seeing their Nittany Lions score from well outside of the 20-yard line.

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McSorley has been unstoppable in the red zone in 2018. (Photo: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports)

Well, amidst all of those big plays, the Penn State offense took a big step forward last year in terms of their efficiency. That efficiency hasn't quite carried over to 2018 just yet, mostly due to a high number of drops, but there is one thing that this team is brutally efficient at- scoring in the red zone.

The Nittany Lion offense has reached the opponent's red zone 16 times in 2018 thus far. Out of those 16 trips into the red zone, Penn State has scored all 16 times, with 15 touchdowns and one field goal.

Now, it is expected that a team will score when they reach the red zone- you are only 20 yards away at that point. But to pick up six points in 15 of 16 tries is ridiculous. To make things even more absurd, the team has run a total of 38 plays in the red zone, which means that Penn State has scored on 39% of the plays they've run in the red zone this season. All in all, 

What's causing the success? The answer, in my view, is pretty simple. Trace McSorley is really, really good at football.

Out of those 16 trips into the red zone, Penn State has scored all 16 times

When Penn State gets into the red zone, McSorley becomes even more lethal than he already is. Inside the red zone this season, the Heisman contender is 4/7 passing with three touchdowns and has six rushing scores on 44 yards on the ground. He puts teams in extremely perilous situations, forcing them to decide whether to attack whoever is in at running back or McSorley himself. If the numbers are any indication, they usually pick the running back, and the speedy quarterback walks into the end zone as a result.

Thanks to their blistering start, we're going to track Penn State's red zone exploits for the remainder of the year to see how efficient they remain. So allow this post to serve as the data for weeks one-through-three, which you can find below.

Penn State in the Red Zone
OPPONENT DRIVES PLAYS RUN TD/Field Goals Turnovers Points Per RZ Trip RUN/PASS SPLIT Scoring % TD %
APP STATE 6 13 5/1 0 6.33 11/1 100% 83.3%
PITT 4 11 4/0 0 7.0 7/4 100% 100%
KENT STATE 6 14 6/0 0 7.0 12/2 100% 100%
TOTALS 16 38 15/1 0 6.75 30/7 100% 93.75%
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