With 3:16 left in the first quarter on Saturday, Buffalo started its fourth drive of the game at its own 16-yard line.
The Bulls concluded this drive with a field goal and gave the ball back to the Penn State with 9:42 left in the second quarter.
The Bulls ran a 19 play, 69 yard drive that took 8:34 off the clock.
This one drive was longer than Penn State’s entire time of possession in the first half.
The Nittany Lions’ offense has had a lack of drives this season and it's something that should be concerning.
Their longest drive this season from a time perspective is 5:51 which occurred in garbage time against Idaho, an FCS opponent that is nowhere near as talented or on the same level as Penn State.
Against Buffalo, the longest drive the Nittany Lions put together was 2:39 and it resulted in a punt.
Penn State’s longest scoring drive was 1:54.
And even when looking at it in a plays perspective it’s not much better.
The most plays Penn State ran in a single drive against Buffalo was seven and that was on the 1:54 drive that ended in a field goal.
In their game against the Vandals, Penn State was on the field for a 14-play drive, but once again it was in garbage time when none of the starters were playing.
Penn State’s starting offense has yet to put together a drive that takes multiple plays and takes multiple minutes off the clock.
But what is the big deal with them not putting together long sustained drives?
I mean Penn State is 2-0 this season and have scored 124 points in those two games which the second most points scored in school history in the first two games.
The one big negative to not putting together drives is that you are never going to win the time of possession battle.
And that was Buffalo’s plan and why it looked poised to upset Penn State. The Nittany Lions offense only had the ball for 17:28 of the 60 minutes on Saturday.
It’s very hard to get into a rhythm when you barely touch the ball and only run 46 offensive plays.
And a big reason why they haven’t run many plays is that the Nittany Lions offense has scored those points by being explosive, not consistent.
“I thought that we were able to get some explosive plays,” James Franklin said after Saturday’s game. “I thought the inconsistency still stayed there, we just became more explosive in the second half.”
“We had a lot of big plays, touchdowns, one-play drives which puts our defense in a tough spot because they have to go right back on the field.”
And Franklin is absolutely correct, the Penn State offense didn’t all of a sudden play perfect football in the second half against Buffalo, it just got explosive.
Let’s look at Penn State’s offensive touchdowns on Saturday.
The first one was a 28-yard pass, the second was a 23-yard pass, the third was a two-yard run which was set-up by a 58-yard pass, there was another 28-yard pass, then a 56-yard pass.
Every single one, except for Noah Cain’s rush, was on a play for more than 20-yards.
And Cain’s touchdown was set-up by a huge play.
And don’t get me wrong, explosiveness by an offense isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that Penn State can’t rely on explosive plays.
As the Nittany Lions run into tougher competition, it won’t be able to count on 50-yard plus pass plays to win games.
At some point, Penn State’s will need a long drive, not only for themselves, but also for the defense.
Against Buffalo, the Nittany Lions defense can afford to get back on the field quickly with less rest as they are athletically superior to the opposing team, but eventually that won’t be the case and the defense will need some time to make adjustments and just regain their composure.
On the surface, Penn State’s offense is just fine, but eventually the Nittany Lions will need to put together a 10-play plus drive and show some consistency.
And so far against Idaho and Buffalo, Penn State hasn’t done this.