Sean Clifford was the star of Penn State's win over Auburn on Saturday, but there was a group of players who helped make his night so successful and were integral to the win – the tight ends.
Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, and Tyler Warren combined for six receptions and 130 yards, with Warren adding a rushing touchdown in a few new wrinkle. Penn State has become somewhat of a tight end factory but you have to go back to the O'Brien years to find a game where they used as effectively as they were against Auburn. Roll the Tape.
We highlighted a Brenton Strange block last week but my goodness, this one is better. Strange has become the lead dog in this pack and plays like this show he deserves it.
The linebackers are thinking run all the way on first and ten, Cliff reads them coming up and finds a wide-open Brenton Strange who snuck behind the linebackers. Strange fights through the initial contact to gain some extra yards - a trend that's been going on for a few weeks now.
The Nittany Lions give two stack looks here, so the defensive is naturally thinking quick pass all the way. Instead, all four guys go out for routes, and the two defensive backs at the bottom of your screen both originally focus on Dotson. This allows Theo Johnson to just run to the open space and set the Nittany Lions up with first and goal.
Warren puts his hand in the dirt (usually the job Theo Johnson occupies). Strange flares out to serve as a pseudo-lead blocker for Dotson while Warren just flies right behind the defensive who has sold all the way out. Good job high pointing the ball here by Warren.
Auburn bet the house this ball was going to Noah Cain and it did not pay off in any way, shape, or form. Strange just flares out and Clifford has the easiest tuddie of his career.
The Lions go jumbo here with six offensive linemen and three tight ends. Dotson goes in motion and Eric Wilson pulls to seal off the backside. Tyler Warren, whose athleticism has been raved about since he was a recruit, does the rest.
This is the play of the ball game. Caedan Wallace is the second man from the bottom of your screen and although he's lined up oddly, he's technically on the line (he also gets to live a lineman's dream by pretending the ball is coming to him). This leaves Brenton Strange, who is lined up at the "left tackle" spot as an eligible receiver. Auburn has no idea that is the case and Strange goes through basically untouched. Marquis Wilson at the top of your screen runs a midline screen with Rasheed Walker and Mike Miranda coming out to block, letting the defensive lineman through on purpose. Clifford then just tosses to Strange who already has a head start on the corner on that side due to his responsibility to cover what he thinks is an incoming screen pass.
This is a masterclass in offensive scheme and Penn State is lucky they have an innovative mind running this offense again. Mike Yurcich has athletes and he's not afraid to use them. It sounds like there's even more to this offense we haven't seen and while they likely won't show their hand against Villanova, there will surely be some tricks as we head into the meat of conference play next month.