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Penn State’s Post-West Virginia Report Card

One of the most anticipated seasons in Penn State history began Saturday night in Beaver Stadium as the Nittany Lions trounced the Mountaineers 38-15. During the victory, quarterback Drew Allar made his long-awaited debut as a starter, and the result was overwhelmingly positive.

The rest of the offense looked as good as could be expected for a season opener. Nine different players caught passes from the young quarterback, six of which were wide receivers. On the defensive side of the ball, Penn State’s front six held West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson to 81 yards on the ground after a shaky start to the game.

As the dust settles from the season opener, let’s take a look at how each position group performed during Saturday’s matchup.

Quarterbacks: A

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Drew Allar directed the offense Saturday, throwing for 325 yards and three touchdowns on 29 passing attempts. Despite the enormous expectations placed on the untested quarterback’s shoulders, Allar stepped up and did what was asked.

After connecting with KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a nine-yard gain on his first passing attempt of the new season, Allar was flushed out of the pocket, stepped up, and found Lambert-Smith again for a 72-strike on just his second passing attempt of the year. Allar managed to find five other receivers during the game, but the 72-yard bomb remained his long of the contest.

Allar continued to show poise and control in the pocket for the majority of the game. Allar’s only misstep came on a red-zone pass to the end zone that should’ve been intercepted but was dropped by the defense.

Beau Pribula saw action late in the fourth quarter, leading a touchdown drive that ended with less than 20 seconds left in the game. Pribula threw the ball once, connecting with Malick Meiga for seven yards. Pribula also wracked up 18 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown in his debut as a Nittany Lion.

Running Backs: A-

Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen once again split reps at running back, with Singleton rushing 13 times and Allen rushing 10 times. Both running backs averaged a little over five yards per carry. Singleton finished the matchup with 70 yards, while Allen tallied 51 yards on the ground.

Even though both running backs combined for only 121 yards, they clearly weren’t the focus of Saturday’s game. However, the running game did its job by taking pressure off of Allar and forcing the defense to defend. None of the running backs broke anything big during the game, and the longest rush of the game was a 14-yard carry from Singleton.

Wide Receivers: A+

Allar wouldn’t have wracked up 325 yards with a mediocre receiving corps. The Allar to Lambert-Smith connection is alive and well, and the duo connected four times for 123 yards.

Liam Clifford made the surprise start in the slot and caught two passes for 25 yards. Harrison Wallace III rounded out the starting receivers, catching seven balls for 72 yards. Malik McClain caught four passes for 58 yards and a touchdown, while Dante Cephas hauled in one pass for 22 yards.

With a crew that has so many potential playmakers, defenses will have to prepare for anyone to be targeted at any time throughout the rest of the season.

Tight Ends: B+

There isn’t much to say about the tight ends’ performance during Saturday’s game, as they were called upon twice all night.

Tyler Warren picked up a first down on a nine-yard reception from Allar. Two plays later, Theo Johnson caught a ball at the line of scrimmage but couldn’t find any yards after the catch as he was brought down for no gain.

Penn State traditionally has a strong tight end room, so plan for Franklin to get this unit more involved over the course of the season.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line is one spot where Penn State didn’t live up to the hype. The Nittany Lions couldn’t create anything special for the running backs, and they allowed four tackles for loss and one sack.

The line managed to create a strong pocket that gave Allar plenty of time to work through progressions and find his target, but with the praise that the line garnered in training camp, the performance didn’t impress as much as it was expected to. Penn State, however, is without Landon Tengwall, an important piece of the line, after he medically retired from football last week.

Front Seven: B

On the defensive side of the ball, Penn State was without two key defensive linemen: defensive tackle Coziah Izzard and defensive end Amin Vanover.

West Virginia running back Donaldson started the game strong, running right through the middle of the defensive line and scoring West Virginia’s only touchdown of the first half. Donaldson ended the game with 81 rushing yards after the front line tightened up at the half.

Quarterback Garrett Greene also had his way with the Nittany Lions on the ground, rushing for 71 yards on 15 carries, including a few key first-down rushes. Linebacker Curtis Jacobs performed well on Saturday with 10 tackles and a sack.

Penn State adjusted quickly and did a good job of keeping the run game in check during the second half, but the performance doesn’t bode well for tougher matchups like Michigan approaching later in the season.

Secondary: A

Part of the reason why West Virginia relied heavily on the run game was because it found nothing through the air. Greene’s longest completion was for 37 yards, and the Nittany Lion secondary held West Virginia to 162 receiving yards and no passing touchdowns.

Safety Zakee Wheatley and cornerback Cam Miller led the secondary with four tackles apiece, while Miller also added one tackle-for-loss.

Special Teams: C

Franklin was unhappy with how the kicking played out during the game, mentioning its incredible inconsistency.

Sander Sahaydak missed two field goals before being pulled in favor of transfer Alex Felkins, who made a 25-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter.

Punter Riley Thompson only punted twice for an average of just 37.5 yards per attempt. Gabe Nwosu kicked off seven times for the Nittany Lions, six of which resulted in touchbacks.

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About the Author

CJ Doebler

CJ is a junior double majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. He is from Northumberland, Pa, just east of State College. CJ is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan, but chooses to ignore the Pirates' existence. For the occasional random retweet and/or bad take, follow @CDoebler on Twitter. All complaints can be sent to [email protected].

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