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No. 7 Penn State Defeats West Virginia 38-15 In Helmet Stripe Opener

No. 7 Penn State (1-0) defeated West Virginia (0-1) 38-15 under a raucous Helmet-Stripe-themed crowd at Beaver Stadium Saturday night.

Drew Allar made his long-anticipated first start as Penn State’s quarterback, and he had an efficient night with 325 yards and three touchdowns. Both teams exchanged blows in the first half, and Penn State came out of it leading 14-7.

The Nittany Lions made it 21-7 on their second drive of the third quarter and then scored 10 more points in the second half. West Virginia scored a garbage time touchdown to make it 31-15, but Penn State responded the next drive to make it 38-15. This was ultimately the final score, as Penn State started the season with a victory.

How It Happened

Penn State won the coin toss and differed to the second half. West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson opened the game with a nine-yard gain, which was followed by an incomplete pass to set up 3rd-and-1. The Mountaineers picked up the first down, but couldn’t run the ball past Penn State’s defensive line after that. With the helmet-stripe crowd at a crescendo, Adisa Isaac reached Donaldson for a two-yard tackle for loss on 3rd-and-3, which finished the opening drive.

Allar’s first snap as the starter was a handoff to Nick Singleton, who managed a 10-yard gain from his team’s six-yard line. Singleton ran again, and then Allar found KeAndre Lambert-Smith for another first down. Then, he connected with Lambert-Smith again for a massive 72-yard touchdown pass to give Penn State a 7-0 lead with 10:13 left in the opening quarter.

The Mountaineers achieved just one first down in their next drive but had more trouble running the ball effectively. Manny Diaz’s defense took care of business by forcing quarterback Garrett Greene to run out of bounds on 3rd-and-7, giving the Nittany Lions their second drive of the first quarter.

Allar struggled in next time out, as he couldn’t move Penn State past midfield. He fired a pass intended for Theo Johnson, but the Mountaineers broke it up to end the drive.

Capitalizing on the momentum left by their defense’s stop, Greene and Donaldson gave the Penn State defense headaches, moving the ball from their own 31-yard line all the way to 1st-and-goal. Then, Donaldson pounded the ball over the goal line to tie the ballgame 7-7, capping off a nine-play, 69-yard drive at 14:14 in the second quarter.

Kaytron Allen responded in sync with a 15-yard gain on a screen pass from Allar for Penn State’s inaugural drive of the second quarter. Then, however, Tomiwa Durojaiye sacked Allar, who answered with an 18-yard pass to Harrison Wallace III, which put the ball right at the 50-yard line.

Scrambling under pressure, Allar found Lambert-Smith again for a 30-yard pass. The Nittany Lions got to 1st-and-goal two plays later, and Singleton burst into the end zone to give Penn State a 14-7 lead at 9:10 in the second quarter.

Greene completed a 17-yard pass to tight end Kole Taylor, putting his team at their own 41-yard line. Head coach Neal Brown called a timeout before the next play, as the crowd’s noise reached deafening levels. West Virginia went for it on 4th-and-5 two plays later, but Greene threw an incomplete pass.

Allar’s 18-yard pass to Wallace and back-to-back eight-yard gains by Allen put Penn State at West Virginia’s 21-yard line, but the drive stalled. Sander Sahaydak’s field goal attempt was no good, and the score anti-climatically remained 14-7 with 2:05 remaining in the first half.

After a failed Mountaineer drive that lasted less than a minute, it was Penn State’s turn again. The Nittany Lions briefly had momentum while getting from their own 29-yard line to West Virginia’s 17-yard line in just three plays, but they were kept at bay by the Mountaineers. Sahaydak attempted another field goal, but it sailed wide again. That ended the half, and Penn State had a 14-7 lead.

Penn State went three-and-out to open the third quarter. The Mountaineers picked up one first down on their first drive of the half, but they too didn’t manage anything else.

After the previous drive resulted in scattered boos and groans around the stadium, Mike Yurcich’s offense wasn’t leaving the field without scoring this time. In a seven-play drive, Allar once again connected with Lambert-Smith on a 12-yard pass to expand Penn State’s lead to 21-7, with Alex Felkins kicking the extra point this time instead of Sahaydak with 8:36 left in the third quarter.

Then, the Mountaineer offense found its stride, too. Donaldson gained a first down, and Greene completed three consecutive passes. The Mountaineers successfully went for it on 4th-and-1 on a quarterback sneak at Penn State’s 32-yard line to extend the drive. West Virginia went for it again on 4th-and-7 on the 27-yard line, but this time to no avail.

Allar spread the wealth on the next drive, finding transfers Malik McClain and Dante Cephas for consecutive gains to bring up 1st-and-goal. The Ohio native threw back-to-back incomplete passes, and Allen failed to reach the end zone on 3rd-and-goal to end the third quarter. Felkins’ field goal was successful, extending Penn State’s lead to 24-7 with 14:57 left in the fourth quarter.

Facing a 3rd-and-5 at his own 30-yard line, Greene slipped away from Penn State’s defense, scrambling 15 yards for a first down at the 45-yard line. West Virginia found itself at 4th-and-2 on Penn State’s 47-yard line five plays later, but it didn’t convert as Abdul Carter sacked backup quarterback Nicco Marchiol for 11 yards to end the drive.

It took Allar less than three minutes to throw his third touchdown pass of the game, this time finding McClain to make it 31-7 with 7:32 to go in the fourth quarter. West Virginia then scored one more touchdown with a two-point conversion to make it 31-15 with 3:34 left in the fourth quarter. James Franklin then swapped Allar for backup Beau Pribula, who ran it into the end zone to make it 38-15 with six seconds left.

Penn State ultimately won 38-15, starting the season 1-0.

Takeaways

  • Allar dazzled in his debut, throwing 325 yards, three touchdowns, and completing 72% of his passes. If Penn State fans want their quarterback of the future, they have it.
  • Penn State’s running game helped balance Allar’s passing game significantly. Nick Singleton rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown, while Kaytron Allen managed 51 yards. The sophomores didn’t quite live up to expectations against the Mountaineers, but they kept West Virginia in check.
  • Manny Diaz’s defense was effective in stopping West Virginia in third and fourth-down situations. The Mountaineers were 4-for-14 on third downs and 3-6 on fourth downs.
  • Sahaydak had a rough night, as he missed two field goal attempts. Franklin replaced him with Felkins, who made his lone field goal attempt and each extra point attempt.

What’s Next?

Penn State hosts the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens at noon on Saturday, September 9, at Beaver Stadium. The game will be broadcast on Peacock.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland, which means he's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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