Drew Allar Lives Up To Hype In Dazzling First Penn State Start
The hype was unreal.
Even before he arrived on campus, Drew Allar was one of Penn State football’s most popular players. The former five-star recruit was always one of the first names mentioned in conversations about Penn State football, even when he didn’t play. Even though he sat on the bench behind a sixth-year quarterback who went on to lead the team to a Rose Bowl victory, the crowd wanted Allar in the game.
The voices of 110,747 fans finally got their wish.
In Penn State’s win over West Virginia Saturday, Allar was the first player off the bus. Allar was the first player on the field. And while he was the last starter announced for Penn State, Allar earned the loudest cheers of any Nittany Lion.
“Obviously, [it was] something really good to build on,” James Franklin said of Allar’s performance after the game, ironically just before saying that one of Allar’s throws should have been intercepted. Underwhelming doesn’t even begin to describe that statement.
Allar handed the ball off to running back Nick Singleton for the first play of the game. On the second snap, Allar gave the ball to Singleton again. Then, on the third play, Penn State’s quarterback threw a nine-yard completion to wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith. He didn’t look back.
The Medina, Ohio, native finished the night with a stunning 21 completions on 29 pass attempts. He threw for 325 yards with three touchdowns and finished with a QBR of 200.7.
For a quarterback entering a starting role with such high expectations, nothing from that performance was a surprise. Franklin felt that Allar could’ve improved his overall performance. Teammates said that while Allar had a strong showing, it was nothing new to them and that this was simply what he did every day in preseason.
“He’s been doing this since camp,” Singleton said about Allar after the game. “He’s very confident. He knows what he’s doing.”
Allar didn’t work alone against West Virginia. He managed to avoid pressure in the pocket on his first touchdown pass, but Lambert-Smith had already created separation downfield. For the duo’s second touchdown of the night, Lambert-Smith was practically unguarded in the end zone.
That isn’t to say that Allar’s night was unimpressive. The passing game carried Penn State against West Virginia. The team’s top two running backs, Singleton and Allen, combined for just 121 rushing yards against the Mountaineers on a night where it wouldn’t have been surprising to see them each surpass the 100-yard mark. Meanwhile, Allar threw for nearly three times that yardage.
But while he was often a one-man show, Allar refused to talk about his individual accolades.
“I feel really good. I mean, the main thing that matters is just winning at the end of the day. We always talked about that ‘1-0’ mindset,” Allar said. “I have some really talented players. I think we did a really good job of just preparing and doing everything you can to come out with this victory tonight.”
While Allar made Lambert-Smith his top target early on, he spread the ball around to a total of nine receivers. Trey Wallace led the corps in catches with seven completions for 72 yards, but Allar also found Malik McClain, Liam Clifford, and a slew of other receivers still competing for a starting job throughout the night. Even with potential starter Omari Evans limited during the game after being listed as questionable to play beforehand, Allar made every receiver look like they could start on any night. He just seemed to make his receiving corps better.
Franklin wasn’t initially keen on praising his starter after the game, but soon warmed up to the fact. The same coach that refused to name Allar the starter until gametime couldn’t deny that the sophomore simply looked the part.
“He’s extremely poised. Like we talked about in the past, he’s mobile for a big guy. [He] does a great job of climbing in the pocket, keeping his eyes up,” Franklin said. “And then on top of that, we were able to spread the ball around… So that’s a positive as well, and he was able to get a ton of guys involved in the game.”
Allar got off to a hot start, completing 11 of his first 12 pass attempts. But the “poised” quarterback didn’t seem to hit any rough patches. When the West Virginia defense nearly intercepted a throw intended for tight end Theo Johnson, Allar completed his next seven pass attempts. When the Nittany Lions needed to pull away in the second half, Allar completed two touchdown passes and set up a field goal that made a Penn State win seem certain.
The poise that Franklin spoke about after the contest was part of Allar’s game from start to finish. After sitting behind former quarterback Sean Clifford for a season, Allar seemed to pick up some of Clifford’s confidence and add it to an already impressive technical skill set.
“I didn’t have any nerves. I don’t really get nervous to play games,” Allar said. “I get more anxious just to go out and start the game.”
Everything Allar did seemed to shake Beaver Stadium. Nothing Allar did seemed to shake him or his teammates.
With Penn State looking down the barrel of a season that could prove to be historic for the program, Allar has shown that he can be the quarterback to lead that charge. He may not be an official team captain, but it’s clear that Allar has earned the respect and trust of Penn State’s locker room.
“He’s always calm, collected, and ready to go,” said Allar’s right guard Sal Wormley. “When I see Drew like that, I know we’re going to be good.”
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