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Penn State Football’s Offensive Struggles Highlighted By Third-Quarter Turnover

At the start of the second half, Penn State’s offense showed a brief glimpse of success. First, running back Nick Singleton gained five yards on first down before quarterback Drew Allar continued to experiment with his legs and picked up a fresh set of downs for the Nittany Lions.

On the next first down, Allar found Singleton in the flat for the first of his seven completions in the second half and, after another short Singleton rush, the Penn State offense found itself facing a 3rd-and-2 from its own 44-yard line.

Allar snapped the ball, dropped back, and immediately took off up the middle, finding a hole in the defense and fighting for a first down. Before Allar was wrestled to the ground, though, disaster struck. Rayshaun Benny came up behind the young quarterback and punched the ball out of Allar’s arms and onto the turf. Michigan’s Makari Paige fell on the ball, and the Nittany Lions’ momentum was gone.

The Nittany Lions haven’t allowed a point in the third quarter all season and have outscored opponents 97-0 in that frame. The Wolverines capitalized on the turnover and connected on a 22-yard field goal to stretch their lead to eight going into the final 20 minutes of play.

“The turnover in the third quarter was a very significant play,” James Franklin said postgame. “Up to that point, we were in a heck of a dogfight between two of the best defenses in college football.”

While it seemed Franklin may have been calling out his quarterback who had just begun to lean into the rushing side of his capability, it wasn’t anything Allar hadn’t already realized.

“That’s when the game changed for me personally. We were moving the ball,” Allar said. “We’re down five at the half and now we’re down eight because I put the ball on the ground.”

After the loss to Ohio State a month ago, Allar said that he “sucked,” and shouldered most of the blame for the loss. After the matchup with Michigan on Saturday, Allar was less harsh but said he still needed to play better.

Allar finished the day 10-of-22 while passing for 70 yards and a touchdown in the Nittany Lions’ 24-15 loss to the Wolverines. Allar was only sacked once in the loss, but Franklin mentioned that Allar was hurried too many times and was often forced to make something out of nothing.

Just like every other time Allar struggled this season, it wasn’t all his fault. Allar often had nowhere to go as his wide receivers couldn’t get open against a stifling Michigan secondary. Along with the pass-catchers, Franklin said the coaches didn’t help Allar much either.

“We’ve got to do a better job of calling a game to get a quarterback into rhythm. That’s critical,” Franklin said.

Allar threw the ball just five times in the first quarter and only three times in the second quarter. Allar only connected on four of his eight first-half attempts.

The passing game had some success early, though. Allar found tight end Tyler Warren over the middle for a 19-yard gain on the second drive of the game that ended up stalling inside the red zone and resulted in an Alex Felkins field goal. Kaden Saunders, who started his first game at wide receiver against Michigan, was targeted early on a fourth-down conversion that Franklin said was some of the best execution of the game.

That execution wasn’t continued, and the passing game fizzled out after the conversion. Franklin admitted that he knew passing was going to be a struggle and the Michigan defense was a force to be reckoned with.

“They did the same thing they’ve done against everybody all year long,” Franklin said. “We had a couple of shots called but we were waiting for a specific look in a specific defense and we weren’t able to get that.”

While the passing game was all but locked up for the whole game, the run game could only do so much. Allar continued to escape the pocket and turn plays with locked-down receivers into meaningful rushes, but it still wasn’t enough. Allar ended the game with 49 rushing yards, six more than Singleton. In all, Penn State amassed 164 yards on the ground against Michigan, tied for the fourth-most rushing yards from the team this year.

Penn State has now dropped both of its big games on the heels of offensive inconsistency and incompetence. While Allar has now shouldered the blame for both of the losses, he’s looking forward to a new week.

“A lot can happen in college football,” Allar said. “At this point, we’ve got to bounce back this week in practice and just play our hearts out. We only get so many opportunities in football.”

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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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