Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 16, 2018 at 11:47 pm.

Nittany Lions still confident despite back-to-back losses

Penn State has lost back-to-back games, but veteran linebacker Koa Farmer insists the No. 18 Nittany Lions haven’t lost any confidence.

“That’s not who we are necessarily,” Farmer said Tuesday.

“I just think we’ve got to take one day at a time, look at the film, look at the corrections each and every practice and get better. That’s the only thing we can do.”

And the best they can hope for still isn’t too shabby. A New Year’s Six bowl destination is still within reach. First, however, Penn State (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) needs to return to its winning ways against Indiana (4-3, 1-3) at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Penn State coach James Franklin believes his team can do so if it can rekindle the offensive spark that helped the Nittany Lions win 24 of 27 games heading into the showdown three weeks ago with the Buckeyes.

“We didn’t hit enough explosive plays or throw the ball well enough,” Franklin said of the Michigan State loss. “When you’re able to throw the ball and now stretch the field horizontally and vertically, that makes it more challenging for them to defend (QB) Trace (McSorley) in the running game.”

That aspect of Penn State’s attack hasn’t been a problem.

The Nittany Lions have racked up 200-plus rushing yards in each of their last nine games. Miles Sanders has slotted in nicely in place of departed star Saquon Barkley and is seventh nationally with 700 yards.

But the passing game has left plenty to be desired. Aside from speedster KJ Hamler, the Nittany Lions haven’t been able to get open consistently. McSorley has completed just 35 percent of his third-down passes and Penn State overall is just 30-for-80 on third downs.

“It’s the consistency,” Franklin said. “It’s the contested catches or creating separation in our route running. It’s a little bit more protection. It’s all of it. It’s not one thing.