Penn State expanded its offense against Auburn, giving a glimpse of what can be

National News

STATE COLLEGE, PA – SEPTEMBER 18: Tyler Warren #44 of the Penn State Nittany Lions leaps to score a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers during the second half at Beaver Stadium on September 18, 2021 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa (WTAJ) — In the biggest game of the season, James Franklin and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich took off the training wheels, and let the play calls fly.

Penn State ran two plays out of the wildcat (wild Lion?) called a wide receiver pass, and went for it on fourth down twice, once with a fake punt, snapping the ball to the upback, defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher. Those are just the obvious creative liberties the Nittany Lions took, watch the tape and you’ll find less obvious ones, too.

The game offered a promising look at what’s in Penn State’s bag of tricks. A bag that will likely be zippered shut at least this Saturday against Villanova. Was it a breakthrough moment? A step forward? James Franklin was asked to weigh on that, but shied away from that viewpoint Tuesday, instead discussing the growing rapport he has with Yurcich.

“Each week we’re together I get a better feel for him,” Franklin said. “He gets a better feel for me, how we operate on gameday. It’s hard for me to say, but we’re trying to take a step each week to get better.”

Saturday’s game was a breakout performance for tight ends. Franklin called that grouping the most talented tight end group he’s had, which is a high praise for a program who’s churned out a handful of NFL tight ends in recent years. Saturday that hype played out. As a group, the tight ends compiled 130 receiving yards and a receiving touchdowns. Out of the wildcat, freshman Tyler Warren ran twice, including a third quarter touchdown.

“There’s really been an excitement about Tyler since we got him in the recruiting process,” said Franklin. “You talk about his transition from the quarterback position to tight end, he was really big and strong and athletic. He’s done a great job in the weight room.”

Sean Clifford’s near flawless performance against Auburn showed just how high he’s operating as a quarterback. His 28-32 netted the highest completion percentage for a Penn State quarterback in 25-years. Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington each carved out great games, while Penn State also got Baylor transfer John Lovett involved in the offense.

It’s safe to say expect a more subdued attack Saturday against FCS Villanova. Kickoff in Beaver Stadium is scheduled for noon.

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