Ricky Rahne, Penn State’s first-year offensive coordinator whose Twitter mentions were ablaze after losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, understands where Nittany Lion fans are coming from.
“I have the greatest job in the world because of the passionate fans. ... I respect the fans’ frustrations,” Rahne said on a Thursday conference call. “Obviously, we want to play better on offense. We want to score every time we touch the football. We’re going to continue to work at it and continue to get better.”
And that starts with Rahne.
Joe Moorhead’s successor — speaking to the media for the first time since August — was peppered with questions about his first-year triumphs, failures and everything in between. The Nittany Lions are averaging 44.2 points per game, which ranks No. 8 in the country. But Penn State is sitting outside the College Football Playoff picture at 4-2 after a one-point loss to Ohio State and a puzzling defeat to Michigan State. And a good deal of that has to do with Rahne and the offense.
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Penn State’s third-down offense — which ranks 82nd in the country behind the likes of Toledo, Tulane and UConn — converted on 6-of-31 tries against the Buckeyes and Spartans. The Nittany Lions refused to push the ball downfield against Michigan State’s 122nd-ranked pass defense as Trace McSorley threw for 192 yards. And everyone knows about the questionable fourth-and-5 call three weeks ago.
While he didn’t specifically mention that final-drive decision to run the ball with Miles Sanders against Ohio State, Rahne said there are playcalls he wishes he could have back. The coordinator noted that no one ever calls a perfect game “because those don’t exist,” but he challenged himself to “strive for that perfection every time.”
“I still remember two years ago, when we don’t come out on top against Pitt, and we asked DaeSean Hamilton and those guys to grow from that experience. As a coach, sometimes it’s easy to ask others to do something like that. But when your feet are in the fire, it can be a challenge to do it yourself,” Rahne said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do, to maintain a confidence and make sure that we all know that I am growing as we’re going through this.”
Rahne’s boss, head coach James Franklin, echoed that sentiment on Tuesday.
At his weekly press conference, Franklin said Rahne has done a “good job” — and subtly addressed those who might be calling for the coordinator’s job.
“Short-term and more importantly long-term, I feel really good about the people that we’ve got sitting in the seats that they are in,” Franklin said, when asked about Rahne’s 2018 so far. “Big picture, I feel really good about my staff and where we’re going. But you know, I don’t want that to be misconstrued. We need to get better, and we will get better.”
Added Rahne: “When you stop getting better, that’s when you need to look yourself in the mirror. I need to make sure that I continue to grow from a number of different areas. And I hope to do that until the end of my career.”