Lions revving up offense with 'NASCAR' look

Matt McGloin (11) scrambles out of the arms of defensive lineman.

There’s fast driving involved in Penn State’s version of NASCAR, but that’s about the only similarity between the team’s up-tempo offense and auto racing.

Penn State has dubbed its no-huddle attack its “NASCAR” look because of its fast pace. So far this season, the team has used it multiple times to keep opposing defenses on their heels and march down the field to put points on the scoreboard.

“It’s been effective pretty much all year,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “It’s something that we have to continue to work on. There are a lot of things we can improve on in the NASCAR package that we run. Up-tempo is good. Our players seem to enjoy it. They enjoy it in practice. They look forward to the up-tempo game plan every week.” Revving

Trailing Northwestern by 11 points at the end of the third quarter Saturday, the Nittany Lions needed to score in a hurry.

Enter quarterback Matt McGloin and the NASCAR offense.

McGloin led Penn State on scoring drives of 82 and 85 yards in the final 15 minutes to take the lead against the Wildcats, and both possessions lasted less than six minutes. McGloin was 13-for-15 for 103 yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) on those two possessions

O’Brien said McGloin is starting to grasp the no-huddle offense, and the senior credited the success of the quick attack to strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald.

“I feel very comfortable with no-huddle, the whole offense does,” McGloin said. “We’ve run it very well, and it’s due to coach Fitzgerald and the staff. What we did throughout camp, what we did throughout the summer and what we still do during the weeks, we’re in better shape than every team we play. So they get tired over there, and we continue to push.”

The team was also productive a week earlier when it sped things up offensively against Illinois. The Lions scored five touchdowns against the Fighting Illini. Four of the scoring drives were 50 yards or longer, and no drive lasted more than three minutes.

Sophomore Allen Robinson — who leads all Big Ten wideouts with 524 receiving yards and seven touchdowns — said the team might sprinkle in the “NASCAR” look mid-drive just to keep some defensive personnel on the field.

“Some teams get used to us pounding the football and stuff like that,” Robinson said. “So for us to change the tempo on the run, it’s big. Some teams might prepare for it, but they’re not used to us changing the pace like that.”

Though some might connect fast-paced offense with recklessness, that’s not the case for the Lions.

Penn State’s offense has accounted for just three turnovers in six games this season (one fumble by running back Bill Belton and two interceptions by McGloin). Meanwhile, the team’s defense has forced 12 turnovers and Penn State’s +7 turnover margin is tied for the best in the conference.

On Saturday, the Lions did not turn the ball over on offense and had the ball for 39:17, which was vital in the win.

“Ball control is a big thing. We have to create tempo. We have to change momentum in times like that,” senior center Matt Stankiewitch said. “And coach O’Brien does that with the NASCAR and the plays he calls.”

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