UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The month of October hasn’t been kind to Penn State this fall.
The Nittany Lions went from being undefeated and ranked in the top-five, to a team riding a two-game losing streak, that has a gauntlet for a schedule down the stretch. Everyone is wondering where the players are at mentally, considering they’re coming off the losing side of the longest game in FBS history.
Not to mention James Franklin’s name has been swirling around in the coaching carousel at USC and LSU. However, Penn State’s star wide receiver Jahan Dotson is blocking out all of the outside noise and focusing on improving the offense.
The Nittany Lions’ ground attack has been abysmal and ranks 100th in the FBS in rushing offense. In return, Penn State has become one-dimensional and predictable on third and longs. Since the offense has no real threat running the ball, the responsibility of keeping the chains moving often falls on Dotson’s shoulders.
He already leads the Big Ten with 49 receptions, and tied for second in the league with six touchdown catches. Quarterback Sean Clifford has been banged up since the Iowa loss. It’s obvious the signal-caller wasn’t 100 percent against Illinois, plus he had no help from the backfield, and the offense sputtered because of it.
“The running game I feel is more like a mindset, we need to be a more physical unit up front, on the perimeter and literally everywhere,” Dotson said.
Although it was poor weather conditions, the Nittany Lions’ offense never established any chemistry, especially in overtime. The offensive line couldn’t get a consistent push up front, receivers dropped balls and the unit played flat throughout the contest.
Dotson thought the offense should’ve took advantage of the looks the unit was getting from Illinois’ defense. Instead the group looked like they were pressing at times.
“Illinois did a great job disguising coverages, but we knew all along that we had what we needed,” he said. “It was just our part on pure execution and the little details.”
Adversity has struck Franklin’s team hard this month and Dotson wants his teammates to respond in a big way. There’s no denying the Nittany Lions’ backs are against the wall. Right now everything is blurry, with no light at the end of the tunnel. Still, Dotson and his teammates aren’t hitting the panic button, because they know they have potential.
“I’ve been in this position before, so we know what we need to do to bounce back,” the 21-year old said. “We just got to keep our heads down, focus and come to work everyday.”
Ohio State is up next for Penn State (5-2) and Dotson is focused on going 1-0 this week. Franklin’s team didn’t fall out of the AP Poll despite their embarrassing loss at home to an unranked opponent. Regardless, the 20th-ranked Nittany Lions will be facing their toughest challenge of the season heading up to the Horseshoe.
Dotson is confident the offense can get it turned around in practice and he could care less about his team being three-score underdogs on the road. The All-Big Ten wideout refuses to point fingers for Penn State’s struggles. All Dotson wants is for the players to rally behind each other, take everything step by step and put together a complete performance.
“That’s the great thing about football, it’s such a team game, that one mistake by anyone on the field can turn out to be a bad play,” the New Jersey native said. “If 11 guys aren’t doing their jobs all at the same time, a play won’t be successful.”
Ohio State (6-1) has won four-straight in the series against Penn State. The Nittany have yet to beat a top-five team under Franklin, but will have a perfect opportunity under the lights Saturday, and Dotson is all dialed in for the matchup.