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Analyzing Post-Iowa Reactions For Penn State Football

Undefeated but improving.

Penn State football defeated Iowa 31-0 Saturday to improve the Nittany Lions’ record to 4-0 on the season. Drew Allar threw four touchdown passes, while Iowa’s quarterback, Cade McNamara, threw five total completions in a dominant performance by the Nittany Lions.

But as with any win, the Penn State fanbase had plenty to complain about, so our football writers broke down the hottest takes from Penn State’s latest victory.

“Penn State’s Win Counts Less Because Iowa Was Missing Offensive Firepower”

CJ Doebler: Not even a little bit. Iowa was without its top tight end, and that would have only provided quarterback Cade McNamara with another target to miss. Penn State’s front seven was suffocating, and I don’t think the extra two running backs would’ve found any more space than Kamari Moulton did. If Iowa was at full strength, it might’ve managed a touchdown, but I don’t think it makes the win any less impressive.

Joe Lister: It’s admittedly a little different. Iowa was missing two of its top running backs and its top tight end, and at moments it seemed that the Hawkeyes really could’ve used them. But at the same time, Iowa hasn’t been shut out since 2000. For context, Drew Allar was born in 2004.

This was a stunning performance by the defense, and it can’t be diminished too much. Besides, the defense was so stifling that I’m not sure that Iowa would’ve scored even with those players.

Nolan Wick: If anything, it counts more because it was a win against a ranked Big Ten team. Even if Iowa had all its players at full health, it still would’ve been a challenge getting past a defense that hasn’t allowed over 100 rushing yards in three weeks.

Cade McNamara proved to be mistake-prone this season heading into the game, which speaks volumes given he had three interceptions and barely over a 50% completion rate against Utah State, Iowa State, and Western Michigan. It’s hard to see how things would’ve been much different having said all of this.

“Penn State Has The Best Defense In The Country”

CJ Doebler: Possibly. This was an all-time performance from the Penn State defense, and following up a five-turnover game with a four-turnover game bodes well for the rest of the season. It’s early, and Iowa’s offense has never been its strong point, but it’s hard to be negative after a shutout of a top-25-ranked opponent. Statistically, the defense is currently first in the nation in total defense, first downs allowed, turnover margin, and time of possession. Either way, the defense is damn good.

Joe Lister: The advanced analytics nerds will talk about EPA and all that, but Penn State has allowed the fewest yards from its opponents of any FBS team this season. The Nittany Lions are also on top for first downs allowed and turnover margin while being top five in the country for takeaways and scoring defense.

Nolan Wick: Given what Joe and CJ touched on, Penn State’s defense has been the best in America this season so far. The level of play has been championship-caliber, which isn’t surprising given that there are NFL-caliber players such as Abdul Carter, Kalen King, Chop Robinson, and more all over the field.

“Drew Allar Hasn’t Lived Up To His West Virginia Performance”

CJ Doebler: I think Drew Allar’s performance against West Virginia has been his best thus far, but Iowa was a close second. Allar’s 68% completion rate against Iowa left a bit to be desired, and 166 passing yards is low, but his four touchdown passes were all well-delivered balls thrown into tight windows.

It’s worth noting that many expected Allar’s no-turnover streak to end this week, but Allar has still yet to throw a pick in a Penn State uniform. Even though he hasn’t played like he did against West Virginia since, Allar rebounded from his disappointing showing against Illinois, and I think that’s really all that matters.

Joe Lister: Yes and no. I’m not as excited about Allar as I was after the West Virginia game, but he’s still a first-year starter who hasn’t thrown one interception. Not one. He hasn’t even fumbled the ball. Allar could take a few more deep shots down the field — or Mike Yurcich could trust him enough to set the offense up to do that — but he still looks alright thus far.

Nolan Wick: He hasn’t, but he bounced back against Iowa after his showing at Illinois. Allar’s 68% completion rate and throwing 166 yards is underwhelming, but his four touchdown passes were well-executed, as he threw the ball into tight spaces with impressive accuracy for most of those plays. It’s also impressive that a first-year starter has not turned the ball over yet. However, I’d like to see him make more big plays.

“Mike Yurcich Needs To Sit On The Hot Seat”

CJ Doebler: Absolutely not. I understand that Penn State’s offense is extremely boring to watch, but it’s scoring. Everyone expected the offense to have to hunker down and scrounge for yards in any way possible against the Iowa defense, and that’s exactly what happened.

Penn State’s streak of 30-point games was extended to 11 games on Saturday, and a team that is having that much success scoring shouldn’t be upset with the playcalling. The only demerit on the offense so far is the lack of explosive plays both through the air and on the ground, but that should work itself out as the season wears on. James Franklin said Mike Yurcich has done a good job not getting bored with calling the same plays all the time and emphasized the importance of sticking with plays that are working. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Joe Lister: Yurcich doesn’t run a sexy offense, but he runs a consistent offense. Yurcich will ground and pound the ball down your throat until you inevitably give up at least 30 points to the Nittany Lions. It would be nice for Penn State to have some really big rushing plays or for Allar to find KeAndre Lambert-Smith on an 80-yard bomb, but 30 points is 30 points. Take them as they come.

Nolan Wick: Mike Yurcich’s offense isn’t flashy, but it’s efficient. It wears opposing defenses down gradually and breaks the game open in the second half. It would be nice if Allar made more big throws or if the running backs had more huge gains, as it continues to lose the “explosive play battle,” as James Franklin puts it. The system is working so far, though, and the offense has scored over 30 points in 11 consecutive games now, which I can’t complain about.

“Penn State’s Running Backs Aren’t Living Up To The Hype”

CJ Doebler: Yeah, and it’s the same critique every week. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen are both averaging below four-and-a-half yards a carry and are struggling to find room to run. The running backs are, however, doing what’s needed. They’re consistently finding small holes to break short runs and gain important yardage to open up the playbook for later downs.

Still, this isn’t the same running back room we saw last year. Singleton’s longest run of the young season came against Iowa and was good for 19 yards. Allen’s longest run of the year was an 18-yard strike against Illinois. In short, the big plays just haven’t been there, but the offense seems to be doing fine without them. 

Joe Lister: As much as I hate to say it, yes. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen aren’t exactly getting a ton of help from their blockers, but it feels like the rushing game has taken a step back altogether. That being said, the pair have shown flashes of what they can be. Allen’s shifty running style is still there, as is Singleton’s speed. They just need gaps to open up for them to make a big gain.

Nolan Wick: Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen haven’t been very explosive, which is different from what we saw last season. However, they get the job done even if it isn’t with 80-yard touchdown runs, like what Singleton did in the Rose Bowl. The frequent, short-gain plays break down defenses, and the coaching staff continues to call them because they’re effective. However, if the offensive line were to open up just a little more, I do think there would be an increase in big plays because of how talented and quick each running back is.

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