Analyzing Post-West Virginia Reactions For Penn State Football

After an offseason of hype and excitement, Penn State football showed just how back it is with a strong 38-15 win over West Virginia.

Assisted by an outstanding performance from first-time starter Drew Allar, lockdown play from the secondary, and good effort from the linebackers late in the game, the Nittany Lions looked the part, and defeated the Mountaineers by 23 points, just over the 20.5 spread set by sportsbooks.

It’s easy to have strong opinions after the first game of the season, and Penn State fans were full of them. Our football writers parsed through some of the hottest takes about the team, and broke down our thoughts about how the Nittany Lions fared while going 1-0.

“Drew Allar Is The Future Of Penn State Football”

Joe Lister: Duh. I was converted to a Sean Clifford believer after last season’s Rose Bowl run (and I stand by that now with his success in the NFL), but Drew Allar just looked incredible against West Virginia. A 19-year-old quarterback who had never started a college football game walked onto the field, threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, and then walked into the media room and said that he wasn’t nervous. Simply put, Drew Allar either has the X-factor or is the X-factor.

CJ Doebler: I don’t think Drew Allar’s debut could’ve gone any better.  Allar showed poise in the pocket, while not being afraid to step up and make a throw. It became evident on Allar’s second pass of the game to KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 72-yard score that this was the guy Penn State had been looking for.

Allar showed off his accuracy and arm strength by zipping balls into very tight windows all night long. There were enormous expectations for the young quarterback coming into this game, and it looks like he just might be everything Penn State fans hoped for.

Nolan Wick: While it’s hard for me to declare any given player the future of the program after only one start, Drew Allar is well on his way. I expected him to struggle a little because it was his first start, but what happened instead was entirely different. Allar’s 325 passing yards on Saturday was more than all but one of Penn State’s games last season.

He tossed three touchdown passes and demonstrated superb accuracy and arm strength throughout the game while looking comfortable in the pocket. Overall, the sophomore appeared confident and ready to be Penn State’s long-term answer at quarterback. Everything Allar has done suggests he has what it takes to thrive in Happy Valley, and I believe he will. The future may have just arrived.

“The Nittany Lions’ Offensive Line Needs Work”

Joe Lister: The O-line wasn’t great, but freaking out after one game is a lot, even if no one really is. Don’t forget, the team is trying to replace center Juice Scruggs and young star Landon Tengwall, who retired due to an injury last week, at the same time. Sure, Hunter Nourzad could’ve avoided skying a few of his snaps to Allar and the line could have created bigger gaps for Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen to bust through, but the group allowed just one sack the entire game. It may take a little time, but the group will be fine.

CJ Doebler: With the praise the offensive line garnered over the offseason, I think it’s safe to say they underperformed in week one. Losing Landon Tengwall was huge from both an on-field and locker-room standpoint. The group only allowed one sack, but Penn State’s run game never found its footing, with both Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen averaging just over five yards per carry. The offensive line didn’t do a bad job, but it also didn’t do a great one.

Nolan Wick: It’s not a good sign when arguably the best backfield in the nation is held to 146 yards. Of course, it wasn’t going to be easy with Landon Tengwall’s abrupt retirement, but it’s not as if the Nittany Lions weren’t preparing without him. The O-line additionally allowed four tackles for loss and a sack. It’s very early in the season, but I have faith that things will look better shortly.

“James Franklin’s Wide Receiver Rotation Is Working”

Joe Lister: I was concerned that Franklin’s unwillingness to not name a third starting wide receiver was because he felt he didn’t have a good option to fill in. Now, we know that he has too many. I was personally a fan of Liam Clifford, who started the game and finished with two catches for 25 yards, including 19 yards after the catch. But Malik McClain, who caught four balls for 58 yards and a touchdown, also impressed. Six different receivers caught passes against West Virginia, and that number only bumps once Omari Evans gets a few more reps in the coming weeks.

CJ Doebler: All of the questions about the wide receiver room vanished Saturday night. Penn State found a way to get almost every receiver that stepped onto the field involved in the game, with six wide receivers catching passes. KeAndre Lambert-Smith led all receivers with 123 yards and two touchdowns, while Liam Clifford made the surprise start in the third wide receiver spot and caught both of his targets for 25 yards. Penn State did a great job of spreading the ball around and forcing the defense to prepare for anyone on the field to break a big play at any moment.

Nolan Wick: The wide receiver depth was perhaps the team’s biggest question mark heading into the season, but after Saturday I feel much better about it. Drew Allar did a good job spreading the wealth and getting the ball to seven different wideouts, which allowed the offense to flourish. This is something that may continue to get more receivers familiar with playing in a real game, especially in the unlikely event the running backs don’t improve. Penn State may now have two effective ways of winning ballgames, which should scare its opponents even more.

“Manny Diaz’s Defense Looked Uncomfortable”

Joe Lister: If you just watched the first half, I’d agree with you. The Nittany Lions didn’t exactly let running back CJ Donaldson run all over them, but 81 rushing yards and a touchdown for the Mountaineer feels a little disappointing. Penn State eventually figured it out, though.

The Nittany Lions started breaking through the West Virginia defensive line and made Garrett Greene pay for his crimes. Greene finished the game with 162 passing yards and was sacked twice, albeit if he rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown. Like the O-line, the defense just had to shake off some cobwebs.

CJ Doebler: The first half of this game was not a stellar defensive showing. While the defensive line was without key depth pieces Amin Vanover and Coziah Izzard, the middle of the line got beat during the first half. Running back CJ Donaldson put up 81 yards and a touchdown during the matchup, with the majority of those yards coming during the first half.

The secondary performed well, limiting West Virginia quarterback Garrett Greene to 162 yards through the air. The line shaped up during the second half, and I think that with time to work out the kinks, this defense will grow into its potential.

Nolan Wick: West Virginia quarterback Garrett Greene and running back CJ Donaldson were each a handful, but Penn State’s defense was mostly focused and its usual self when it needed to be. This was evident in third and fourth downs, as the Mountaineers went 4-for-14 and 3-for-6, respectively. Penn State’s defense will be absolutely fine. I have no concerns about it moving forward, and neither should you.

“Special Teams Looked Awful”

Joe Lister: Yup. I won’t say that Sander Sahaydak should pack it up now, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the starting placekickerr job now belongs to Alex Felkins. Riley Thompson isn’t Jordan Stout or Barney Amor, but he could find his way there. Kaden Saunders, who interestingly enough was not one of the six receivers to make a catch, also looked iffy. He didn’t call for a fair catch, by the way. You can bet that special teams is going to be Franklin’s favorite group to work with this week.

CJ Doebler: Yeah, this one was rough. Sander Sahaydak might’ve lost the starting placekicker spot after blowing two mid-30-yard field goal attempts and being replaced by transfer Alex Felkins. Franklin said the competition between the two was extremely close through camp, and we could see either kicker back on the field against Delaware.

Sahaydak’s two missed field goals were the main story throughout the night, but punting could use some work as well. Thompson averaged 37.5 yards per punt after only being called on twice during the victory. Kaden Saunders ended the game with negative return yards, while Singleton ended the game with 19.

Nolan Wick: The special teams, particularly the kickers, are something to be concerned about. Sander Sahaydak’s two misses left six points on the field, and that’s something he needs to work on. Alex Felkins eventually replaced him and was completely on target. However, James Franklin said in his postgame press conference that the battle was close, and could’ve gone either way. That’s a red flag to me when players are missing easy field goal attempts. Although Penn State won by several points, this kind of mistake could easily lose games down the road.

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