Year One for Ricky Rahne as Penn State’s offensive coordinator is almost in the books. One more date, and a chance for the Nittany Lions to earn a signature win against Kentucky and the Wildcats’ stingy defense in the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl.
Rahne, who took over for current Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead, made some tweaks to the Lions’ spread offense. Penn State’s running game became much more efficient and effective, averaging 5.2 yards. per attempt with fewer tackles for loss. New tailback Miles Sanders ran for more than 1,200 yards and Sanders and quarterback Trace McSorley combined for 20 rushing touchdowns.
But … the PSU passing game wasn’t as dangerous.
McSorley threw for 2,284 yards — he had 3,570 in 2017 — and his completion percentage dropped from 66.5 to 53.3. To be fair to Rahne and McSorley, the quarterback suffered a significant right knee injury against Iowa in late October and continued to play through the injury.
Rahne met with the Lions’ media on Friday and shared his thoughts on a variety of topics.
On where the offense can improve: “We, as an offense, myself included, have gotta make sure we take advantage of our opportunities when they are there,’’ Rahne said.
“If it’s a play-call that needs to be called, I’ve gotta make it. If it’s a route that needs to be run the right way, we’ve got to do it. If it’s a throw that’s got to be had, pass protection, stuff like that, we’ve got to do it and take advantage of the opportunities. Because the teams that we play are talented enough that they can take away things for most of the game.’’
On coaching McSorley and Trace’s final game: “I think the beauty of Trace is that it’s going to be no different from the middle of the year in getting ready,’’ Rahne said. “He’s going to prepare the exact same way. He’s going to have himself ready to go in all of the different looks. He’s going to go out there and play consistent and that’s kind of been the beauty of him, is his consistency. In terms of me, obviously, I have a special relationship with him and his family and it’s going to be hard for me to see him go.’’
“I think one thing is that we learned (in 2018) is that we played against some pretty good defenses, teams like Michigan State, teams that have proven to be pretty good throughout the year and pretty stout, especially up front,’’ Rahne continued.
“I think (McSorley) battled through it and proved that he’s one of the toughest players in the country, like we all knew that he was.’’
On dealing with Kentucky star pass rusher Josh Allen: “We’ve played against some pretty good football players in the Big Ten and some pretty good pass rushers,’’ Rahne said, asked about the Wildcats’ All-American outside linebacker.
“And he is a great pass rusher. He’s got great explosion off of the ball. He really does a nice job with his hands and things like that, he’s got some great counter moves. He’ll be a tremendous player in the NFL.’’
On dealing with criticism from the Penn State fan base: “For me personally, I’ve learned this — we have 650,000 living alumni, or it’s actually 637,’’ Rahne said. “If a thousand of them are saying something negative or positive about you on social media, Twitter or something like that, you’re dealing with an incredibly small percentage of people.
“And I think that’s the thing that all of us have to remember all of the time. Whether it’s good or bad or whatever, most of the people are just right in the middle. They just want to see Penn State be as successful as possible and do it the right way. Sure, they’re upset at certain times and I’m sure they’re excited at certain times. It’s the very fringe people that are going to be actually making their opinion felt.’’