CARSON, Calif. - Under the guidance of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, Penn State put up the kind of eye-popping numbers this season that attracted the attention not only of football fans nationwide, but also athletic directors seeking to give their flagging football programs a boost.
Moorhead was a popular target for head coaching vacancies at Football Bowl Subdivision schools after the end of the regular season. Published reports had Purdue and Connecticut considering him for the job, but Moorhead, who was hired by head coach James Franklin last December after four years at Fordham's helm, decided to stay in Happy Valley.
Speaking Thursday after the Nittany Lions continued preparations at the StubHub Center for Monday's Rose Bowl game against Southern California, Moorhead called the attention "a testament and a compliment to our program and our players, that you perform well during the season."
"There were people who were interested in speaking to me about their head coaching positions, and I was willing to listen," he said. "Ultimately, I made the decision that personally and professionally, that my family and I wanted to be at Penn State. So [it was] a little bit hectic at times, but it comes with the territory."
Moorhead, a native of Pittsburgh, said he turned down a job as an FBS head coach when he was at Fordham and noted that coming to Penn State presented a "pretty special opportunity for me to leave there."
"But I was told by a coach a long time ago that when there's an opportunity offered to you, to utilize a couple of different criteria, personal and professional," he said. "I'm two hours from my folks. My wife's a couple of hours from her family. My kids love it in State College. We're a program on the rise and James is great to work for. We have great kids. It just made the most personal and professional sense to stay here because great things are on the horizon."
The Nittany Lions scored 38 or more points in each of their last six games, averaging more than 494 yards of total offense in the process. They are third in the Big Ten in scoring (36.7 points per game). Quarterback Trace McSorley was first in the FBS in yards per completion (16.3), sixth in yards per attempt (9.39) and 14th in passing efficiency.
Certainly, the Lions have made a dramatic jump in their offense after the 2015 team averaged 23.2 points and 348.4 yards of total offense per game. Moorhead said he went back and researched past Penn State teams that excelled on offense.
"In some ways, I think we may have exceeded where I thought we could be throughout the season," he said, "so I'm just very proud of really the entire program, first and foremost, and the way we play great complementary football - offense, defense, and special teams - but particularly how our offense has improved from Game 1 until now."
Moorhead called "unfortunate" the loss of wide receiver Saeed Blacknall, who was suspended for the game for an undisclosed violation of team rules, but said the team's "next-man-up mentality" means the player who takes over the role is expected to do a good job.
"We're very deep at receiver, it's a position of strength for us," Moorhead said of sophomore DeAndre Thompkins and a pair of South Jersey redshirt freshmen, Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles.
With only one senior starter - center Brian Gaia - on offense, Moorhead will be familiar with his personnel next season. And if someone should come calling after that?
"If a situation arises and it's right, I'll listen to what people have to say and consider it on an individual basis," he said.