This year, Penn State’s offense has been the weight that tips the scales in the direction of a win or loss.
At the beginning of the season, the blue and white’s attack struggled to formulate goals, but now it appears to have turned things around — at least for the time being.
The Nittany Lions are coming off their second win of the season, an 11-8 victory over Johns Hopkins at home.
Prior to the victory, Penn State had lost back-to-back games to the likes of Michigan and the Blue Jays, falling 14-12 and 13-6, respectively.
Coach Jeff Tambroni thought he had made the offense more complex than it needed to be and that it was slowing down his attackmen in those losses.
“The more complex you become, the slower your offense becomes,” Tambroni said. “The more uncertain that your offense becomes, the slower it is.”
The win over Johns Hopkins saw Tambroni shifting the offense to make up for its slow start.
He took his attacking game plan back to simplify things and build up his players’ confidence.
“I think it is important just to be more simplistic and create some confidence and flow to the things we are more familiar with,” Tambroni said.
Of course, a game plan only works if the players are executing it.
In years past, Penn State’s offense was one of its strong points because of the different types of shots it took compared to this year's team.
“If you look at 2018, 2019 and 2020, they made a lot more room, time shots and inside shots that made that group more consistent,” Tambroni said. “This year, we take a lot of shots on the run and outside shots more toward our comfort zone.”
The 2019 championship-winning team was ranked first in the conference with 15.4 goals per game. In 2021, Penn State is second-to-last in the Big Ten in scoring with 10 goals per game.
Tambroni knows the offense has to execute his game plan better by finding the back of the net more times in the game.
“We have to shoot the ball better,” Tambroni said. “In the past couple of games, we have not capitalized on the situations that have been presented to us.”
As the regular season continues, the blue and white will begin its rematches of Big Ten foes like the conference’s best in Maryland and Rutgers.
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But other than the path set ahead for them, Tambroni wants his players to work on two things to boost offensive efficiency.
“One, we need to create a better shot selection, certainly. The better we do with creating a breakdown within the defense, it will create more offensive efficiency,” Tambroni said. “Two, given the opportunity, we need to keep improving at our craft, keep working at our shooting and remain confident while doing so.”
The Nittany Lion offense will have a test this week in its second go-around with No. 3 Maryland Saturday. The Terrapins defeated the blue and white 13-7 in the second week of the 2021 campaign.
Maryland is known for its defense, which has allowed the least amount of goals in the conference with 55.
Tambroni knows the full strength of the defense his Nittany Lions will be going up against when they head to College Park.
“I think their defense has been proven extremely stout and very consistent throughout the course of the year against some very talented competition,” Tambroni said.
Maryland is the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten with a perfect 6-0 record.
Besides second-place Rutgers, the blue and white has given Maryland its second-closest game all season with a 13-7 loss.
For this week, Tambroni wants his team to just focus on itself and not worry about the Terrapins.
“I think it is more important to remain confident in who you are, your system, and you worry about your own problems,” Tambroni said. “If you worry about your opponent, especially an opponent as talented and successful as Maryland, you spend less time working on your own system — and that backfires.”