With the news of Penn State hiring their new offensive coordinator in Kirk Ciarrocca, one would think it’s a bit of a puzzling move for Ciarrocca. He is having somewhat of a homecoming by joining Penn State, growing up in a small town of Lewisberry; which is about an hour and a half from State College.
Ciarrocca is a branch off of Greg Schiano’s tree. He got his coaching start at Rutgers as their co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Rutgers Years: 2009-12
Believe it or not, Ciarrocca’s first year at Rutgers was his best year offensively. The team finished 9-4 and was ranked 52nd overall in points per game at 28.8 and had 326.3 total yards per game. The quarterback that year was Tom Savage, who threw for 2,211 yards and 14 touchdowns. Rutgers would go on to win the St. Petersburg bowl over UCF 45-24; tying for the highest-scoring game for them that year.
2010 was unkind for everyone associated with the Scarlet Knights. They went from 52nd in the nation to 101st in the nation in points per game at 20.8 and total yards at 294.9. With Savage injured during the season, Ciarrocca was forced to go with freshman quarterback Chas Dodd. Consequently, the team finished 4-8 on the year and suffered a significant setback in progress.
In both Greg Schiano’s and Ciarrocca’s last year at Rutgers, they improved from the previous year. The offense finished in the middle of the pack at 65th in points per game with 26.4 and 339.0 total yards per game. During the season, we saw Ciarrocca lean toward Freshman Gary Nova, where both quarterbacks finished with 1,500+ yards and 10+ touchdowns. The season ended with a Pinstripe Bowl win over Iowa State 27-13.
Western Michigan Years: 2013-17
2013 was a year of several bumps for Ciarrocca and Western Michigan. They finished 1-11 and ranked 118th in points per game with 17.2 and 327.2 yards per game. Even though it was a rough start, you could see things start to turn around with youngster Zach Terrell at quarterback.
The next year, something special was happening with the Broncos offense. In 2014, they finished 34th in the country with 33.8 points per game and 438.2 total yards per game. Terrell finished with 3,433 yards and 26 touchdowns. Even though Western Michigan lost in the Idaho Potato Bowl to Airforce 38-24, it was an incredible one-year turnaround for the program.
Each year there was a pattern of steady improvement, and 2015 was no different. The Broncos finished 8-5 on the year and were 26th in the nation in points per game with 36.0 and 490.8 total yards per game. Terrell continued to improve as well, as he tossed for 3,522 yards and 29 touchdowns. Western Michigan earned a bowl victory in a 45-31 shootout over Middle Tennesee. It marked the school’s first-ever bowl game victory.
In both Fleck’s and Ciarrocca’s final year at Western Michigan, they had their best year to date. The team finished with a 13-1 record and earned a poll ranking for the first time in school’s history. The offense sparkled with 41.6 points per game; 9th in the nation. They also averaged 481.2 total yards per game. Terrell threw for 3,533 yards and also had 33 touchdowns. The season did end in a disappointing fashion, as Western Michigan fell short in the Cotton Bowl 24-16 against Wisconsin.
Minnesota Years: 2017-Present
2017 was a year to forget for Ciarrocca, as Minnesota finished 5-7 and ranked 110th in the nation in points per game at 22.1 and total yards at 308.5. That year, no quarterback for the team ended with 1,000+ yards. With new faces for both Fleck and Ciarrocca, no one expected Rome to get built overnight.
In 2018, the offense wasn’t potent with inexperience and injuries at the quarterback position. The Gophers finished 65th in points per game at 28.6 and 380.0 total yards per game. On October 26th of that year, Tanner Morgan got his first start. The offense finished the year strong with a 7-6 record bowl victory over Georgia Tech.
During the 2019 season, we saw Ciarrocca’s coaching talent blossom. The Gophers finished 3rd in the Big Ten for total offense with 426.8 yards per game. As far as points per game, the Gophers averaged 34.3; putting them in a three-way tie with his current employer Penn State and Airforce.
With Morgan slinging the ball, it was safe to say Ciarrocca’s quarterback whispering skills were hard at work. He had a historic game for the Big Ten, completing 95.45% of his throws against Purdue. He also finished with a career-high 396 passing yards; the 7th-most in school history. Morgan finished the year with 2,975 passing yards and 28 touchdowns.
Ciarrocca’s Future at Penn State
His move to Penn State is a bit of a head-scratcher, as its his third consecutive lateral move. Penn State is an upgrade for Ciarrocca, as he holds more of an arsenal to work with and future assets in terms of incoming recruits. For Penn State fans, there is nothing more important than the development of Sean Clifford. With Ciarrocca’s given track record with quarterbacks, Clifford’s future is a bright one.
Photo Credit: Daily Gopher