Penn State spring football game 2012: O’Brien’s new offense very Paterno-esque


Well, it wasn’t quite the grand entrance of Charlie Weis and his “Decided schematic advantage.” But in former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s first spring at Penn State, we learned that while the coach may change, the offense in Happy Valley still needs a lot of work.

That’s because in O’Brien’s first spring game since taking over for Joe Paterno, the product on the field Saturday was very, well, Paterno-esque. The quarterbacks looked out of sorts, interceptions were handed out like Halloween candy, and overall, the defense ruled the day, in front of 60,000 fans at Beaver Stadium. With the defense in blue jerseys and the offense in white, the blue squad won the afternoon’s scrimmage 77-65.

(For those of you just dying to know how the scrimmage was scored, here’s your answer courtesy of Penn State’s official athletics website:

The special scoring system awarded the offense six points for a touchdown, one point for a PAT, three points for a field goal and two points each for a big play (15+ yards) and two consecutive first downs. The defense earned points by scoring a defensive touchdown (7 pts.), a turnover (6 pts.), sack (4 pts.), tackle for a loss (2 pts.) and forcing a three-and-out (1 pt.)

As for the on field production, the story of the day was unfortunately more inconsistent quarterback play. The team has struggled in the two seasons since Daryll Clark left campus following the 2009 season, and things don’t seem to be much better, even with O’Brien now at the helm. Matt McGloin, Paul Jones and Rob Bolden are all competing to be the starter in the fall, and none really did much to separate themselves Saturday, combining for 19 of 42, with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Jones had probably what was considered the “best” day, throwing for 113 yards, with one touchdown and one pick apiece.

But as has become tradition in Happy Valley, most of the highlights actually came from the defensive side of the ball. The group recorded those five interceptions mentioned above, with C.J. Olanyian tallying three sacks and two tackles for loss. On offense, little used sophomore back Bill Belton rushed for 52 yards and a touchdown, with Allen Robinson leading the team with 105 yards receiving. Zach Zwinak also showed that he might be an effective short-yardage back, with 37 yards on the ground and a touchdown.

Of course as we all know, most of the real stories on Saturday didn’t center on anything that happened on the field, but instead off it, where Penn State held their first spring practice in 46 years without Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno. As you obviously know by now, Paterno was fired last fall, and passed away later on in the winter after succumbing to lung cancer. O’Brien was named his successor in early January, after one year as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator.

And despite the program moving on, it didn’t appear as though the fans were totally ready to either. According to reports, a local florist had 409 flower carnations dropped off at the foot of Paterno’s statue outside Beaver Stadium, with each carnation representing one win in his Hall of Fame career. In addition, fans lined up for pictures next to the statue of the fallen icon.

But whether the fans are totally ready to move on or not, the time has come. O’Brien is the man in charge, and is now tasked with rebuilding not only a football team, but also the culture around it.

Given what we saw today, he’s certainly got his work cut out for him.

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About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.