Penn State’s Post-Auburn Report Card

Penn State football dominated Auburn in a 41-12 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday afternoon.

The Nittany Lions played their most complete game of the season, as every group on the team controlled the game. Manny Diaz’s defense forced four turnovers, something it had struggled to do in the first two games. Most notably, Penn State established the run game early, as true freshmen Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen combined for 176 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Overall, it was the best game Penn State has played in a long time. So, let’s review how each position group performed against the Tigers.

Quarterbacks: A

I mean, there isn’t much more the signal callers could have done to help Penn State win this game. Sean Clifford had a sneaky solid game, as he completed 14-of-19 passes for 178 yards and recorded a rushing touchdown, too. Most importantly, he made smart plays with the ball and didn’t turn it over. That’s a very underrated characteristic for a quarterback to have. He also bounced right back up from a monster hit by Auburn linebacker Owen Pappoe.

Drew Allar came into the game, as well, and looked very comfortable with the two passes he fired off. KeAndre Lambert-Smith also completed a 25-yard “Penn State Special” pass to Sean Clifford, which was kind of a dime. It’s only right that we toss him in with the quarterbacks.

Running Backs: A+

We don’t really know what else to say at this point. The run game on Saturday was beautiful. True freshmen Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen both had breakout games, combining for 19 carries worth 176 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Singleton now has 334 rushing yards through three games, which is the most for any Penn Stater through game three since Larry Johnson registered 362 yards through three in 2002.

Not only did all four running backs help break the game wide open, but they also took pressure off Sean Clifford and Penn State’s passing game, something the run game has struggled to do since 2019. It allowed for Mike Yurcich to call a much more offensively balanced game. The game could’ve been much closer if that wasn’t the case.

Wide Receivers: A-

The wide receivers had quiet days, but they were all effective in their own ways. Mitchell Tinsley got up to haul in a 34-yard pass from Sean Clifford that helped set up Penn State’s first scoring drive, which was a critical moment in the game since Auburn didn’t regain the lead after that.

Trey Wallace did take an offensive pass interference penalty, though. Still, the group did what it needed to do to win and execute the game plan.

Tight Ends: A

Brenton Strange was Penn State’s most effective pass catcher by far. He led all Nittany Lions with 80 receiving yards on six catches. He was Penn State’s only tight end to record a catch even though Theo Johnson was back in the lineup for the game. Strange provided a massive block on Singleton’s 54-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He also had a pretty cool hurdle when he got hit in mid-air but still regained his balance and picked up almost 15 yards after the contact.   

Offensive Line: A-

Penn State did have three false starts yesterday, with one of them being on Tyler Warren. But, that’s the only thing to really pick on, as the line had its best game of the season by far. The group didn’t give up a single sack all game or even a quarterback hurry. That’s not easy to do.

The line also helped pave the way for the Nittany Lions’ dominant rushing performance. Overall, it was an outstanding effort from a group that seems to be playing with a huge chip on its shoulder.

Front Seven: A

This was probably the most dominant game Penn State’s front seven has had in a long time, as the group combined for five sacks and helped take away Auburn’s run game, which posed a massive threat coming in with Tank Bigsby as the starter. Adisa Isaac and Chop Robinson each forced a fumble, and Robinson even recovered one, as well.

True freshman linebacker Abdul Carter stuck out in particular, as he displayed his speed and agility off the edge. Carter registered six solo tackles, a sack for an 11-yard loss, and a forced fumble. He and Curtis Jacobs are going to be a massive threat to opposing offenses, creating a very good one-two punch at linebacker.

Secondary: A-

Similar to the rest of the team, the secondary had its best performance of the season. Ji’Ayir Brown and Zakee Wheatley each picked off a pass, while the rest of the secondary held the Tigers to 296 yards through the air. That’s not an extremely low number, but the defense stood strong once Auburn started driving and never let the Tigers gain too much momentum.

Special Teams: A

Barney Amor only punted the ball three times, pinning the Tigers inside the 20-yard line on two of those. The big story in special teams was Jake Pinegar, who previously struggled against Ohio. The redshirt senior went 2-for-2 on field goals, with an impressive long of 48 on the day. It was only two attempts, but maybe this is the boost that Pinegar needed as we head toward the meat of Penn State’s schedule.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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