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Penn State Football’s Offense Increasingly Confident Heading Into Michigan Showdown

The stakes couldn’t be higher before Saturday’s Beaver Stadium showdown against Michigan as Penn State football must triumph to keep its high-level postseason hopes alive.

However, after last week’s 51-15 thumping of Maryland, the Nittany Lions feel increasingly confident in the offense’s ability to make the necessary plays to beat the Wolverines.

“It was definitely nice to get the [offense] rolling. We just want to keep building off that confidence,” Drew Allar said. “That’s going to be one of our main things in practice this week. It’s gonna be a huge week for us in the quarterback-tight end receiving room, just continuing to build off what we had going last week.”

Allar dazzled in College Park with 240 passing yards, four touchdowns, and a 73.5% completion rate. He made big plays when he needed to, and his throws were well-timed and accurate. It was one of his best games of the entire season.

Additionally, he connected with Theo Johnson, Tyler Warren, and Khalil Dinkins for a combined two touchdowns and 86 yards. His chemistry with the group has been on display throughout the season, which both sides have raved about at times.

However, the tight ends weren’t the only good part of Penn State’s win last week. Both KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Dante Cephas impressed, as the former led all players with 95 receiving yards, while the latter recorded a season-high 53 receiving yards and two touchdowns. However, James Franklin wants to see even more of the duo and other offensive players against the Wolverines.

“We need KeAndre to take the next step, Dante, the tight ends to take the next step, because we’re going to have to make some plays in the passing game,” Franklin said. “I don’t think there is any doubt about it.”

The offense is currently riding a wave of confidence not just because of its performance against the Terrapins but also because of how it prepares for games in practice.

“We’re very confident going into every game just because of the way we prepare throughout the week,” Allar said on Tuesday. “The coaches are obviously going to do a great job with us in meetings today, showing us the film… If we just go out and execute our jobs, I think we’ll be able to stay on track.”

Allar added that Michigan will capitalize if Penn State makes mistakes. Jim Harbaugh’s defense’s 2,083 yards allowed is 25 fewer than Penn State’s total, and it averages 4.24 yards per play compared to the Nittany Lions’ 4.00.

As Franklin mentioned, Allar is going to need to make some big plays in order to win. His receivers will need to separate from a secondary whose 1,272 passing yards allowed is the fewest in the nation. He won’t have much time to do that, either, as Michigan’s defense has 22 sacks and 38 quarterback hurries.

“They all fly to the ball,” Lambert-Smith said of the Wolverines’ secondary. “There’s room to make plays, but you know, just like our defense they fly to the ball, so if you make one guy miss, expect a group of them to come.”

This is the kind of game that could come down to a few big plays, and Lambert-Smith and the other receivers will need to find space, just as they did against Maryland. The passing game couldn’t have heated up at a better time than last week, and after weeks of question marks, it’s possible the group may finally have hit its stride at the right time.

Franklin mentioned that it could be a tight game that comes down to a few plays, just as Penn State’s loss at Ohio State last month did. Although it was ugly toward the end, the fact that the Nittany Lions kept it close is a sign that against another powerhouse, things may shake out differently at Beaver Stadium.

“There is no doubt about it, that in these types of games, we have to show that we can manufacture yards and points against whoever we’re playing,” Franklin said. “But I think there is a way to do that, and I also think as a coaching staff, we’ve got to be patient, and we’ve got to capitalize when those moments come because there are about four-to-six moments or plays a game in these types of games that you got to capitalize on them and we need to capitalize.”

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland, which means he's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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