Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne hears criticism, vows to improve
In his first year as coordinator, he has heard complaints about his play-calling and the performance of the offense as a result of back-to-back losses.
The Penn State offense has received its fair share of criticism in recent weeks, particularly about the unit's ineffectiveness late in back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Michigan State.
Ricky Rahne, the man in charge of the offense and the play-calling, has heard the complaints. People are still talking about the fourth-and-5 run he called against the Buckeyes, a 2-yard loss with 1 minute, 16 seconds left, and he took responsibility for it.
Although it might be difficult to believe after two straight defeats, Rahne says he's his own biggest critic.
"I hold myself to a high standard," Rahne said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. "I'm as hard on myself as any fan or any critic. I assure you that I'm harder on myself. Obviously when things don't go exactly how you want them to go, you look and you evaluate and try to see how you can get better."
This is Rahne's eighth season on James Franklin's staff, including three years at Vanderbilt, but his first as offensive coordinator. He said he is striving to improve as a play-caller.
"Obviously there are play calls I wish I could have back, whether it was in the last drive of the game or the first drive of the game," he said. "I think as a play-caller, to go into a game or a season and think that you're going to call every play exactly how you want it to go, you're going to be sorely mistaken. I need to continue to get my guys in the best opportunity and the best position to succeed."
The Nittany Lions, who travel to Indiana on Saturday, got off to a great start on offense. After four games, all wins, they led the nation in scoring with a 55.5-point average and rolled up nearly 540 yards per game of total offense.
However, the Lions averaged 21.5 points and 444.5 yards against Ohio State and Michigan State. The offense played its poorest game against the Spartans, lacking aggressiveness and unable to run sufficient time off the clock late in fourth quarter.
Despite having a Heisman Trophy candidate in Trace McSorley at the controls, the passing game has continued to struggle. Rahne conceded there is a lack of rhythm in the attack.
"There's a number of different things," he said. "It's details, it's fundamentals in releases. It could be footwork by the quarterback and timing there, the protection up front, things like that. When you go back and watch the tape, it's usually one guy here, one guy there, and that can mean the difference."
The Lions have taken fewer shots down the field, but Rahne said that's as much of a function of opposing defenses as anything.
"There was a point [earlier this season] when we very high up there in terms of yards per completion," he said. "I think it's just been what teams have been presenting us. There have been times when we've had shot plays called and they've given us a defense that would take that away. Other times where maybe something happened, a breakdown in protection or whatever, we had to get the ball out a little bit quicker."
Rahne said he respects the fact that fans are frustrated, and promised to keep working to improve his offense and his play-calling.
"We want to play better on offense," he said. "We want to score every time we touch the football. We're going to continue to look at it. We're going to continue to get better, and the only thing we can do is hard work. Our preparation, effort and execution have got to improve all the way around."