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Penn State’s Post-Indiana Report Card

Penn State football handily dispatched Indiana on the road in a 45-14 blowout Saturday, as the Nittany Lions avoided back-to-back losses for the second time this season.

Despite a week of speculation, Sean Clifford nabbed the start at quarterback. The sixth-year senior finished with 229 yards and an interception before he was relieved by Drew Allar. The former five-star prospect took over when the game was thoroughly out of reach but still managed 75 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Arguably the real star was freshman running back Kaytron Allen, who imposed his will on the Hoosiers with 158 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, Manny Diaz’s defense showed a similar power advantage, fighting its way to six sacks and three interceptions.

There were a lot of positives to celebrate in the Nittany Lions’ conference win this weekend, but there is always room for improvement. Let’s take a closer look at how each position group fared in Bloomington.

Quarterbacks: B+

To the dismay of some fans, Clifford took Penn State’s first snaps. A rough first-quarter interception aside, Clifford turned in an efficient game. Completing 15 of his 23 passes, he recorded 229 yards to bring him within 16 yards of Trace McSorley’s all-time program record.

When Allar entered the game, Indiana trailed 31-7. There were low stakes, but the freshman still impressed. At a 75% completion rate, Allar amassed 75 yards and found receivers in the end zone twice. As head coach James Franklin looks toward the future, fans can expect to see more and more of the promising freshman this season should the opportunities present themselves.

Running Backs: A+

Kaytron Allen is a stud, folks. Entering the season, former Gatorade National Player of the Year Nick Singleton was the main catalyst of fans’ excitement for the running backs, but the man they call “Fatman” is no slouch.

Allen generated 86 yards on 18 carries – good for 4.8 yards per rush. In the passing game, he was similarly valuable with a pair of catches for 72 yards. However, what was most noteworthy was his scoring. Allen couldn’t be kept out of the end zone, scoring a trio of touchdowns on the ground.

Though he didn’t show the same scoring acumen, Singleton was also important to Penn State’s offensive attack. On 16 carries, Singleton totaled 73 yards for a strong 4.6-yard average.

Wide Receivers: B+

The wide receiver room had a relatively quiet Saturday. Perhaps this is a harsh grade, considering their numbers didn’t need to be called. But still, it was a quiet day.

Mitchell Tinsley was consistent, racking up 63 yards on five catches. Parker Washington caught four balls for 30 yards of his own. Late in the game, Trey Wallace became the sole receiver to hit paydirt with his first career touchdown, but it was on his lone 1-yard catch.

At the end of the day, the game script didn’t call for much from the receivers. They did an effective job, but it was unremarkable.

Tight Ends: A-

Penn State’s tight ends were a strong feature in the passing game and, barring one glaring mistake, played their part admirably. Three different tight ends recorded receptions — Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, and Khalil Dinkins.

Strange’s pair of catches totaled 29 yards, but one of those was among the team’s best all season. On a deep third down, Clifford was facing a collapsing pocket and fired a prayer to Strange down the middle. Wrapping his arms around his defender, Strange somehow reeled in the pass and kept the chains moving.

Johnson was the most productive tight end of the day, picking up 43 yards and a touchdown from wunderkind Allar. His late score served as redemption after he dropped a wide-open would-be touchdown from Clifford earlier in the game.

Offensive Line: A

Entering the game, Penn State’s offensive line was missing three starters (Olu Fashanu, Landon Tengwall, and Caedan Wallace). On the first play of the game, guard Hunter Nourzad also left with an injury.

Despite a true freshman left tackle, Drew Shelton, earning his first start, the Nittany Lions’ line allowed just one sack. Even that came on the team’s first drive.

The group bounced back from a shaky start and overcame absurd injury issues to protect Clifford and Allar, as well as pave the way for a prolific day on the ground.

Front Seven: A+

This was the best game of the season for Diaz’s front seven. With six sacks and a whopping 13 tackles for loss (the defensive backs added three more), it looked like the Penn State defensive linemen and linebackers couldn’t be stopped.

The monstrous pass rush found the most statistical success in the first half, but the threat of its persistent pressure forced the Hoosiers’ three different quarterbacks to throw ill-advised balls. Those poor decisions were turned into three takeaways by the secondary. Without the front seven, the team’s three interceptions likely wouldn’t have occurred.

Epitomized by a streak of three consecutive plays that ended in sacks, Penn State’s defensive front proved itself a force to be reckoned with. Any preseason concerns should be washed away. The unit is for real.

Secondary: A-

A quiet day in the secondary is usually a good one, but that didn’t mean Saturday’s contest was quiet.

On the second drive of the game, the Nittany Lion secondary made communication mistakes, leading to Indiana’s sole first-half score. A blown coverage left a Hoosier wide open in the end zone and allowed Indiana to tie 7-7.

After that, the secondary performed lights out. Joey Porter Jr. kept his men on an island, rarely making his name heard. Daequan Hardy intercepted a pass to gift his offense a red zone possession. Sophomore Kalen King reeled in the first interception of his career, too.

The Hoosiers were forced to throw the ball often, but they didn’t find much success due to the suffocating coverage of the Nittany Lions’ defensive backs.

Special Teams: B

Penn State’s special teams units weren’t as sloppy as they’ve been in the past, but they weren’t perfect either.

There were highs. Parker Washington ran a punt back 19 yards, setting up the Nittany Lion offense for a quick scoring drive. Historically streaky kicker Jake Pinegar was perfect on his six extra point attempts, but more notably also hit a 50-yard field goal — a career-high for the redshirt senior.

Issues reared their heads, though. Washington fumbled another punt, likely reestablishing that as a point of emphasis for returners in practice. After punter Barney Amor was seen on the medical bike, redshirt freshman Gabe Nwosu took his first collegiate punts. While the 6’6″, 268-pounder shows promise, Nwosu’s kicks left something to be desired, only averaging 34 yards per punt.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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