Penn State offensive coordinator takes blame for 4th-down call vs. Ohio State
STATE COLLEGE — Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne took responsibility Monday for calling the failed fourth-and-5 running play on the Nittany Lions’ final drive against Ohio State, saying “ultimately, I didn’t give our guys the best chance to succeed.”
The play came at the Ohio State 43 with 1 minute, 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter Saturday night and the Buckeyes leading 27-26. Quarterback Trace McSorley, who accounted for a school-record 461 total yards in the game, handed to Miles Sanders on an inside run, and the tailback was stuffed for a 2-yard loss. Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young looped inside on the play and made the tackle after being virtually unblocked.
The Buckeyes ran out the clock from there.
“I was upset with (the play call) because there was a particular thing that I should have foreseen, and I didn’t,” Rahne told the Associated Press. “I should have foreseen one other thing, and I didn’t. That made it a little bit more difficult than I thought it was going to be.”
Rahne, who is in his first season as No. 11 Penn State’s playcaller, said he was most upset coach James Franklin and McSorley were left to answer for his call after the loss to the third-ranked Buckeyes. After games, Franklin’s policy is that only he and the players address the media.
Penn State took two timeouts before the decisive play, and Ohio State called its own timeout in between.
Rahne said Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was using a front the Buckeyes normally use to rush the passer on the final play. Rahne said while the inside-zone run did not have a lot of success overall against the Buckeyes, it did against those types of defensive fronts. Rahne recalled two similar long-yardage downs when Sanders picked up good gains, including 12 yards on a third-and-13 in the third quarter.
“So that was the thought process that went into it,” Rahne said. “I felt like we had a good chance to run the ball and split it right up the hash. I went back and watched the tape. Is there a possibility for that? Yeah, maybe, but ultimately I didn’t give our guys the best chance to succeed.”
Rahne would not say specifically what Ohio State did that he failed to anticipate.
Rahne, 38, has worked for Franklin since 2011 at Vanderbilt. This is Rahne’s first season as an offensive coordinator. He was promoted by Franklin after Joe Moorhead left to become coach of Mississippi State in December. Rahne called plays in Penn State’s Fiesta Bowl victory against Washington.
After the loss, Franklin took responsibility for the final call, and he reiterated that Monday.
“At the end of the day, I’m the head coach, and I have to take responsibility for it,” Franklin told AP.
Franklin said he could have overruled Rahne, but that is not the way he prefers to manage a game.
“That sounds good on Monday after the fact when the play isn’t successful,” Franklin said.
Franklin said he makes suggestions about whether to be more conservative or aggressive throughout a game, but he wants his coordinators on both sides of the ball to call the plays.
“A guy is into the flow of calling the game, and you try to jump in and call something, I don’t think that’s in the best interest of our players and our organization,” Franklin said. “When the head coach jumps in and tries to change the call, that can do more harm than good in the long-term.”
Rahne said it was not just the final play that bothered him. Penn State missed early opportunities to build a big lead when drives stalled in Ohio State territory.
“And that’s what I told my guys,” Rahne said. “Hey, I’m going to evaluate myself just as much on the other three, four plays that I didn’t love those call that I made just as much as that one.”
Rahne said the success of a play usually comes down to who wins 11 one-on-one battles on the field.
“On that play, I lost my one-on-one battle with Coach Schiano,” Rahne said.