Penn State Football’s Post-Michigan Report Card
Another year, another likely 10-2 record.
Penn State football dropped its second big game of the year Saturday with a 24-15 loss against Michigan. The Nittany Lion offense once again struggled to move the ball, and the passing game never developed. A promising start to the second half was halted by a Drew Allar fumble that Penn State never recovered from. Despite James Franklin saying that his team was bigger and more well-equipped to handle the Michigan rush attack, the Wolverines ran all over the defense and only threw one pass in the second half of Saturday’s game.
Before Franklin and Co. face Rutgers next week, let’s take a look at how each position group fared against Michigan.
Saturday’s showing was a complete 180 from Allar’s performance against Maryland. The sophomore quarterback threw for 70 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts while completing just 45% of his passes.
While the receiving corps had more issues creating separation, Allar wasn’t very accurate. The high point for the passing game came on a fourth-down conversion early in the second quarter. Allar found first-time starter at wide receiver Kaden Saunders for a 13-yard gain and a first down. Franklin highlighted the play in his postgame press conference and noted the play was the only time he saw that level of execution throughout the game.
Along with 70 passing yards, Allar started to find his rhythm in the run game. Allar rushed 10 times for 49 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run at the end of the first half that sent the Nittany Lions to the locker room in a five-point hole.
However, Allar tried rushing on a 3rd-and-2 on the first drive of the second half but had the ball knocked out and recovered by Michigan in what turned out to be a momentum-changing play.
Running Backs: B
Nick Singleton took the first two drives of the game at running back, and it quickly became evident that Saturday was going to be more short runs up the middle. Singleton finished third in rushing yards with 43 on 13 attempts.
Kaytron Allen had success running the ball against the Wolverine defense, but Franklin stuck with his two-back model. The IMG product recorded the longest play from scrimmage for the entire team with a 34-yard rush on the last drive of the second half. Allen finished the day with 72 yards on 12 carries, 29 more yards than Singleton on one less attempt.
Wide Receivers: D
This was another bad showing from the receiving corps. Dante Cephas was the only wide receiver to catch more than one pass from Allar and tallied just 11 yards.
Saunders led the wide receivers with 13 yards despite the fourth-down catch being his only reception of the game. Allar’s typical top target KeAndre Lambert-Smith was targeted four times but only caught one ball for six yards. The passing game’s struggles fell largely on the wide receivers’ inability to create separation against a talented Michigan secondary.
Tight Ends: B
The tight ends stepped up in the passing game again as both Tyler Warren and Theo Johnson were in the top three on the team for receiving yards.
Warren caught two passes for 25 yards on four targets, including a 19-yard catch that was the longest passing play of the game. Johnson was targeted five times and also caught two passes including an eight-yard touchdown catch late in the game. Even though they didn’t put up game-changing numbers, the tight ends were the leaders in an uninspiring passing game.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line wasn’t a part of the offense’s problems and put together one of its better games of the year against Michigan. Allar was only sacked once during the loss against a very good Michigan pass rush. Franklin lamented the fact that Allar was hurried a few too many times on Saturday, but Allar was forced to hang in the pocket for longer than usual waiting for a receiver to get open.
The offensive line also paved the way for the Nittany Lions to record 164 rushing yards with an average of 4.7 yards per carry, one of the group’s better numbers of the year.
Front Seven: C+
Penn State’s defensive line started out hot with Dani Dennis-Sutton registering an early third-down sack on Michigan’s first drive of the game. The Wolverines, however, figured out the Nittany Lion defense and limited their involvement the rest of the way. Chop Robinson returned to action for the first time since leaving the Ohio State matchup but only managed one quarterback hurry throughout the game.
Kobe King led the front seven with nine total tackles while linebacker Curtis Jacobs recorded seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. The Wolverines ended with 227 yards on the ground but also only attempted to throw the ball once in the second half.
Since Michigan was committed to the run game for most of the day, the secondary was never really tested. Aside from a controversial pass interference call on Kalen King on the only pass attempt of the second half, the secondary was mentioned hardly at all.
Safety Kevin Winston Jr. led the team with 12 total tackles including five solo tackles and a tackle for loss. Michigan ended the game with 60 passing yards.
Special Teams: A-
The special teams unit wasn’t much of a differentiator in the game, but it performed well. Alex Felkins connected on his only field goal attempt of the day from 20 yards that opened up the scoring. Punter Riley Thompson punted five times and had a career day with 245 yards with an average of 49 yards per kick. Thompson also pinned the Wolverines within their own five-yard line and had two punts of over 50 yards.
Daequan Hardy handled punt-returning duties and attempted two returns for eight yards, though a nice return was negated by a block in the back call.
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About the Author
The second-highest attended game in Beaver Stadium history was a rollercoaster of emotions.
The Nittany Lions used the lessons learned from last week’s near-upset against No. 1 Nebraska to take down the No. 2 team in the country.
Beaver Stadium was a tough place to be Saturday when Penn State football fell 24-15 to Michigan, and history so gracefully repeated itself.