By Mark Beech, SI.com
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State's 45-14 blowout of Oregon State was so out of hand by the end of the first half that the Nittany Lions could afford to keep a significant part of their new "Spread HD" offense under wraps. No matter. What we saw was enough to show that Penn State could be a dark-horse threat to win the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions can score in a variety of ways and out of a variety of formations. We saw the Power-I. We saw the shotgun. We saw the quarterback draw and the zone-read option. It's going to be a lot for defensive coordinators to counter. One of the neatest wrinkles came when wideout Derrick Williams lined up as the tailback in the I formation, took a pitch and threw to the end zone.
It will be little tricks like that -- as well as a solid offensive line -- that could just make running back Evan Royster a serious Heisman-Trophy candidate. While the Beavers were trying to figure out what was coming next, the smooth-running Royster ran right over them, picking up 141 yards on 17 carries and scoring three touchdowns. That gives him six scores in the season's first two games. Were you watching, Heisman Pundit?
In short, Penn State looks very, very complete. Williams is basically a third option at tailback after Royster and speedy Stephfon Green. Wideout Jordan Norwood (eight catches, 116 yards, one TD) has exceptional hands and quarterback Daryll Clark, who showed a remarkable passing touch today, does an excellent Michael Robinson impersonation.
If there's a downside to this boffo exhibition, it's the fact that three defensive players, including starting defensive linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma, were not on the field due to a suspension by Joe Paterno earlier this week. In the last few years, Penn State has had more than its share of off-the-field trouble, and there is a growing buzz that Paterno has lost some control of the program.
Thankfully for the fans in Happy Valley, those concerns will be dealt with at a later date. For today, anyway, the sky's the limit.