Following a 55-16 defeat at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans and a year littered with frustrating underperformance, the powers that be at Penn State decided to part ways with offensive coordinator John Donovan.
The 41-year-old New Jersey native came with head coach James Franklin from Vanderbilt in early 2014. When playcalling is questioned and point totals are not as high as they should be, it is often the offensive coordinator who is the first to feel the heat. Such is the situation that unfolded in Happy Valley, and the Nittany Lions are currently in the initial phases of a search for quality replacement.
Whoever takes over will likely not have the benefits of Christian Hackenberg at quarterback, as the Junior will almost certainly declare for the 2016 NFL Draft following this season. In a way, this creates a blank slate for the new coordinator to turn the page and move forward while putting his fingerprint on the program immediately. In another sense, it is a huge loss that is going to be almost impossible to replace leading up to another daunting 2016 regular season schedule.
A look at this year’s team and this year schedule provide some clear evidence as to why a change needed to be made.
From a statistical standpoint, the Penn State offense was nothing short of embarrassing in 2015. They ranked 100th overall running the ball at 135 yards-per-game and 79th through the air with just over 200 passing yards-per-game. Hopes were high going into the year that Hackenberg and the rest of the stars would allow the team to compete for a Big 10 trophy, but their 4-4 conference mark put them nowhere close to that.
A frustrating loss to a Temple squad that turned out to be far better than expected kicked off the season. Hackenberg looked tentative, confused and aside from the first few drives of the game, Penn State showed no punch. Five straight wins had everybody excited and the fan base back on board, but a 38-10 loss at Ohio State was a clear indication that the program was a cut below the elite squads they so desperately hoped to join this year.
Three consecutive losses to end the season, including scoring only 16 points against Michigan and Michigan State on consecutive weekends, was clearly the final straw. Here’s hoping the squad gets the best candidate in the fold, and soon.
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