Penn State fans could have been excused for feeling a certain pang of caution as Ricky Rahne was named offensive coordinator earlier in the month.
He had big shoes to fill, an explosive offensive standard to live up to, and all a part of a team that was in the thick of the national conversation. If nothing else, there simply were more options outside the program than in.
So as the Nittany Lions took the field on Saturday night Rahne had the least to lose and the most to gain of just about anyone in the stadium. A bad performance and you could chalk it up to a short transition period. You could say that Rahne just needed more time to get acclimated and the offseason would give him that time. Or simply that Washington's fifth ranked defense was a bad draw for a debut as a coordinator.
All of those things would have made sense and none of them really would have been wrong.
In truth it was hard to imagine --simply because there were so many other outcomes-- that Rahne would call a game as solidly and as consistently as he did against Washington.
"We made a decision and stayed internal. And I thought our guys handled it really," Penn State coach James Franklin said after the game. "Ricky Rahne, our offensive coordinator. Josh Gattis, our passing game coordinator. Matt Limegrover, run game. And obviously getting Tyler Bowen back. I thought those guys did a fantastic job."
"And I thought Matt [Limegrover] did a great job there. I thought the combination of Ricky Rahne, I thought he called a really good game today. I thought Josh Gattis had a big part in that as well in our passing game."
In total Penn State did everything it wanted to against a team that was well equipped to stop it. The Nittany Lions racked up 545 yards of offense and 35 points while going 13-of-17 on third down. More importantly Penn State held the ball for 10:24 in the final quarter including a long six minute drive that was the second longest of the season to nearly close it out.
And while Rahne was quick to give Saquon Barkley credit for his 92-yard touchdown, there was a subtle wrinkle in there as well. Something Rahne gets credit for too.
"First of all, it was a great play by Coach Rahne and the offensive staff," Barkley said. "We designed something to get the defense looking to the sideline. We kind of picked that up watching film."
It worked, Washington's defenders looking back at their sideline for a check, and Penn State was ready for it, snapping the ball and moments later Barkley was off to the races.
"I know it sounds cliche or whatever, there could have been nobody in the stands or five million people watching," Rahne said after the game. "I'm going to put more pressure on myself...I felt good just with the preparation that we had and the tempo that we were able to play with and that translated to guys being able to play fast. And that's the thing, these guys are great players, and when you put great players in a position to make plays, they're going to do it."
Rahne's work isn't done, but for his first true debut, it was hard to come away anything other than impressed.