Loss of Moorhead leaves Lions with a hole to fill

UNIVERSITY PARK – Breaking up is hard to do.

When news broke about former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead bolting to Mississippi State on Tuesday night, there was a sense of disappointment throughout Happy Valley. After all, Moorhead was the architect of the Penn State offense for the past two seasons, an offense that has helped deliver a 21-5 record in Moorhead’s first two seasons.

Let’s face it: The Penn State offense has been nearly unstoppable under Moorhead’s guidance. This season, the Nittany Lions averaged 41.6 points per game. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, those numbers are remarkable.

Offensively, the Lions weren’t exactly balanced, but that’s OK. Moorhead was able to spread the ball around to get everyone touches and keep everyone happy. The Lions racked up 2,009 yards on the ground and 3,430 through the air.

Moorhead used junior running back Saquon Barkley in every way he could think of – running, catching and even throwing the football. It was an amazing thing to watch.

The Lions had 5,439 total yards of offense – an average of 6.6 per play.

In the regular season, the Nittany Lions lost just two games – Ohio State (39-38) and Michigan State (27-24). The offense was hardly to blame in those losses as Penn State had leads in both.

Penn State head coach James Franklin knew that Moorhead would be a hot commodity coming off back-to-back 10-2 regular seasons. He didn’t want to lose Moorhead, obviously, but he handled the situation with class.

“We couldn’t be happier for Joe Moorhead and his family,” Franklin said in a statement. “This is tremendous opportunity for him to return to being a head coach and continue to move forward in his career. We are so appreciative of everything that he has done for Penn State football in his two years.

“Joe's combination of leadership, X's and O's, and, most importantly, positive attitude brought the best out of our very talented offensive student-athletes. He has been a great mentor and coach to our student-athletes and friend to me and our staff. We wish Joe nothing but success at Mississippi State.”

Now, the search begins for Moorhead’s replacement. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some potential candidates and tell you which ones are the most capable of producing Tuddies for the Nittany Lions, who will be looking for their third offensive coordinator under Franklin.


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