Penn State’s Post-Delaware Report Card
Penn State moved to 2-0 on Saturday after beating FCS opponent Delaware 63-7, a scoreline tied for the third-largest margin of victory during James Franklin’s tenure.
Last week, Penn State left a lot of questions unanswered, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Playing an FCS opponent that’s smaller and less talented didn’t provide an accurate measure of Penn State’s true ability, but the Nittany Lions managed to take care of business with minimal mistakes along the way.
While the team starts to shift gear toward a date with Illinois next week, let’s take a look at how each position group fared against the Blue Hens.
After a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor following Penn State’s victory over West Virginia, quarterback Drew Allar jumped right back into the offense and delivered once again. Allar posted an 85% completion rate on Saturday with 204 yards and a touchdown through the air, despite only playing until about nine minutes left in the third quarter. Allar’s top target was once again KeAndre Lambert-Smith, who he connected with six times for 74 yards.
After Penn State went up 42-7 in the third quarter, Franklin decided to make the switch to Beau Pribula, who immediately made an impact with his legs. After connecting with Dante Cephas on 2nd-and-20 for a gain of 10 yards, Pribula kept the ball himself the next two plays, gaining seven yards on third down and 18 yards on a fourth-and-short conversion. Pribula capped off his first drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Franklin continues to show interest in getting Pribula into the game, mentioning that if Pribula is a part of the offensive scheme, it’ll be that much harder for defenses to prepare to play Penn State. If what we saw from Pribula on Saturday continues, even though it was against an FCS opponent, Franklin is right.
Running Backs: A
Kaytron Allen was announced by the Beaver Stadium video board as the starter for Saturday’s game, and Allen took advantage of the opportunity. Franklin said postgame that both Allen and Nick Singleton have bought into the co-starter narrative, and it paid off for the running back room. After Allen and Singleton combined for 120 yards last week, the running game found its footing against Delaware. The duo combined for 155 yards but didn’t play much into the second half as Trey Potts and Tank Smith took over.
Allen reached 1,000 career rushing yards on Saturday, gaining 103 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown. Singleton was called on mainly as the goal-line back, scoring three touchdowns on 12 carries for 52 yards.
Interestingly enough, the longest run of the game was a 20-yard strike from Potts, who saw significant action during the second half, finishing second in rushing yards on the game with 59. The performance from the running back room was a good one, but the lack of explosive plays is what kept the running backs from an A+.
Wide Receivers: A-
After Saturday, it appears that the third wide receiver spot is still wide open. Liam Clifford once again made the start in the slot for the Nittany Lions but managed only two yards on two receptions.
Lambert-Smith and Harrison Wallace III once again led wide receivers with Lambert-Smith catching six passes for 74 yards and Wallace catching three passes for 26 yards. Despite being praised heavily by Franklin throughout the week, Malik McClain was targeted three times but only made one catch for a gain of seven yards.
Omari Evans, Cephas, and Cristian Driver rounded out the pass-catching wide receivers, with Evans catching a touchdown pass from Pribula and Cephas gaining 36 through the air.
Tight Ends: A
At his midweek press conference, Franklin said that Penn State wasn’t going to force the ball to any one person if they weren’t open. Last week, the tight ends weren’t open. This week, they were.
Tight end Tyler Warren was second on the team in receiving yards on Saturday and caught six passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. Fellow tight end Theo Johnson had 14 yards on two catches, good enough for fifth on the team. Both tight ends caught every ball thrown their way.
Penn State showed that it won’t be afraid to use its tight ends throughout the rest of the year, but only if the opportunity presents itself.
Offensive Line: A-
Much of the running back room’s issues gaining yards last week was caused by the play of the offensive line. This week, the line did its job opening up holes for the running backs to break into the secondary while also providing a pocket that gave the quarterbacks time to work through their progressions.
Penn State’s offensive line improved this week and only allowed three tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries with no sacks after allowing a sack, four tackles for loss, and three quarterback hurries a week ago. The line opened up opportunities for the run game this week, but there’s still room for more improvement.
Franklin switched up the starting line, giving Vega Ioane the nod over JB Nelson, who was praised by both offensive line coach Phil Trautwein and Franklin during media availabilities last week. The slight change won’t mean anything for the long-term depth chart, though, as Franklin said that games against opponents such as Delaware are as good a chance to get players off the field as it is to get players on it.
Front Seven: A
The defense stifled Delaware on Saturday, and much of that effort started up-front with the defensive line.
Linebacker Abdul Carter and defensive tackle Zane Durant led the defense with four tackles each, while Carter added a quarterback hurry and Durant added both a sack and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. Defensive ends Jameial Lyons and Zuriah Fisher both recorded sacks during the game.
The only blunder the defense committed was a 66-yard touchdown rush from Delaware’s Marcus Yarns, which was made possible by a missed gap and a broken tackle from Tyler Elsdon. However, the Blue Hens finished the first half with 65 total rushing yards, meaning Penn State gave up -1 rushing yard without the big touchdown strike.
Even the backups dominated against Delaware, giving up only 17 rushing yards during a second half in which Delaware only moved the ball 56 yards total.
When Delaware quarterbacks Ryan O’Connor and Marker dropped back to pass, they often had nowhere to go with the ball. The secondary gave up only 58 yards through the air, 28 of which came on a JoJo Bermudez reception late in the game after the starters had already gone to the bench.
Safety Keaton Ellis forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow safety Kevin Winston Jr., the first forced turnover of the season by the Nittany Lion defense.
The Delaware offensive never got going against Penn State and crossed the 50-yard line twice during the game, once on the 66-yard touchdown. Delaware never ran a play from the red zone during the Nittany Lion victory.
Special Teams: C
Special teams looked better this week but is still in need of improvement. Sander Sahaydak was passed up in favor of Alex Felkins as the starting placekicker on Saturday, who drilled all eight of his extra-point attempts. Sahaydak also nailed his only extra-point attempt early in the second half.
Punting also improved, with Riley Thompson punting twice for an average of 45.5 yards, up from his 37.5-yard average last week. Thompson also pinned Delaware inside its own 20-yard line once, after not putting a punt inside the 25-yard line at all last week.
As for returning, Kaden Saunders had another so-so performance, averaging four yards per return on five punt returns with a long of nine yards. Singleton fielded a kick return once, taking it out of the end zone to the 26-yard line.
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