We've hit the halfway point of the 2019 season with the Nittany Lions sitting at 6-0. It's been an up-and-down start for the offense, with them looking like world-beaters some days, and pedestrian others.
Our staff sat down to hand out report cards to the Penn State offense and name our mid-season MVPs for each position group. Let's take a look.
Note: MVPs with a * next to their name were unanimous selections by our staff.
The offense hasn't missed a beat with Clifford at the helm. The sophomore doesn't have the most impressive stats, but he's been smart with the football. He's turned it over just two times, once an outstanding play by Nick Cross at Maryland and then on a miscommunication with KJ Hamler against Purdue. Overall, he's proven he can be a solid weapon through the air and with his legs.
|Player||Games Played||Att||Passing Yards||TD||INT||COMP %||AVG/G||QBR||Rushing Attempts||Rushing Yards||Rushing Tds|
- Position MVP: Sean Clifford* (duh)
Running backs: B+
It's been a weird year for the running back room. With the Nittany Lions doing their best to split the carries between four backs, the guy on the field most often is leading the team in carries: Sean Clifford. Nevertheless, Ja'Juan Seider is getting a tremendous amount of production from the LawnBoyz, led by Noah Cain.
Cain's getting most of his carries in the fourth quarter, allowing him to lead long, clock-killing drives against tired defenses. It's been a pretty even split between Brown, Slade, and Ford for the first three quarters, with each wrecking havoc in their own ways.
|Player||Games Played||Rushing Attempts||Rushing Yards||Rushing TDS||AVG/G||Catches||Receiving Yards||Receiving TDs|
- Position MVP: Noah Cain*
Receivers/Tight Ends: A-
Though young, Penn State's pass-catchers came into the season with high expectations and they have not disappointed. KJ Hamler and Jahan Dotson have led the way for the receivers. The evolution of the screen game has allowed these two to become even more dangerous. Justin Shorter was coming on strong before an injury knocked him out of the Maryland game and left him sidelined for Purdue. He returned last week and should play a bigger role moving forward.
Pat Freiermuth has been his usual self so far. He's become one of Clifford's favorite targets and is causing headaches in the red zone. Nick Bowers has finally had the breakout season we've all been waiting for. The Nittany Lions have gone with two tight end sets a lot more this season, allowing him to really shine.
|Player||Games Played||Catches||Receiving Yards||Yards Per Catch||Receiving Touchdowns||Yards per game|
Position MVP: KJ Hamler
- Others receiving votes: Jahan Dotson
Offensive Line: B
Penn State's offensive line has taken a noticeable step forward from last year, a byproduct of having three upperclassmen starters back. They've done a decent job keeping Clifford upright, allowing 10 sacks through six games, but some of those fall on the quarterback's shoulders.
In the run game, the offensive line has done a great job clearing out space. The Nittany Lions are averaging a respectable 4.76 yards per carry, while their 18 rushing scores are tied for second in the Big Ten.
Offensive Line MVP: Michal Menet
- Others Receiving Votes: Rasheed Walker
Overall grade: B+
No matter how you spin it, Penn State's offense is getting the job done. The nation's No. 9 scoring offense, they're the only team in the top 10 in scoring who has faced a team with top 10 in scoring defense. Sean Clifford is starting to mature, the running back rotation looks like it's been sorted out, the receivers are making big plays, and the offensive line is finally breaking through the upper echelon of the Big Ten.
This is still a very young team, and with 30 of the team's 32 touchdowns coming from underclassmen, they're only going to get better. This is the part of the season where we find out what this offense really is. They passed their first real test last weekend, but the next games will be against two more top-25 defenses. It's been a promising start against teams that Penn State could afford to make mistakes and grow. That's all about to change.
Overall Offensive MVP: KJ Hamler
- Others Receiving Votes: Sean Clifford, Rasheed Walker, Noah Cain