Penn State surges with bold play-calling

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
3:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Toward the end of Saturday's blowout win against Wisconsin, all of the Penn State coaches who watched the game from the press box -- with one notable exception -- made their way to the field at Camp Randall Stadium.

When offensive coordinator Galen Hall arrived, a contingent of Nittany Lions fans standing behind the south end zone began chanting his name. They asked for a wave, and, after some prodding, Hall obliged.

Though Joe Paterno's son, Jay, had been the fans' favorite target for criticism in years' past, Hall also received plenty of heat. Now he's a hero.

One fan summed up the sentiment, yelling, "Way to open up the playbook, Galen!"

There was some concern that Penn State had gone conservative in its Big Ten road opener against Purdue. The Lions were held to fewer than 35 points for the first time, though they still racked up 422 yards. Passive play-calling against Wisconsin, the reasoning went, could lead to a loss.

Instead, Jay Paterno and Hall produced an aggressive game plan to attack the Badgers defense down the field. Quarterback Daryll Clark missed several big-play opportunities early on, but the coaches continued to call long passes, and Clark converted early in the second half.

Clark went 4-for-4 on Penn State's first drive of the third quarter, and all four completions went for 11 yards or longer. On the next series, Clark hit four passes of 21 yards or longer, including a 44-yard touchdown to Deon Butler.

"Jay stood in front of us [at halftime] and told us, 'We can run anything,'" Clark said. "The things that are scripted can work for us. That first drive, coming out of the locker room in the third quarter, was the most important drive."

Added left tackle Gerald Cadogan: "It was very important to come out and just establish the Penn State way. We came out and established our Penn State way."

It's a departure from the past.

After the game, Joe Paterno brought up Penn State's 2005 loss to Michigan and how the circumstances -- seventh game of the season, undefeated Lions team, a tough road setting -- were similar on Saturday night. When a reporter told Paterno that the scheme in 2005 seemed much more conservative, the coach dismissed it, saying, "You don't know the difference between being conservative and being smart."

But even Paterno acknowledged the current offense is more assertive.

"We've got different personnel," Paterno said. "We've got four or five wideouts that can go catch the football, we have some people that can do some things. Now that football team [2005] had some other things going for them, and we tried to get everything we could out of those guys."

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