Analyzing Post-Rutgers Reactions For Penn State Football
One more time, folks.
Penn State football bounced back against Rutgers on Saturday with a 27-6 win over the Scarlet Knights. With the Land Grant Trophy on the line this week, let’s take a look at some of the hottest Penn State football takes our writers saw over the weekend.
Give Beau Pribula The Reins As The Starting Quarterback
CJ Doebler: Beau Pribula did what he needed to do to win on Saturday, but I don’t think he deserves to be a starter. Whenever he gets game action, Pribula has been used like a running back. Drew Allar has been starting to take off and use his legs more in recent weeks, but a quarterback has to be able to throw, too. Pribula only threw the ball once during the second half to Tyler Warren for a nine-yard gain on a day that was ruled by the rushing game.
Pribula said that James Franklin trusts him to throw the ball, but the looks were never there so he took off running on almost every play Saturday, ending the day with 71 yards on eight carries. Pribula was good on Saturday, but his skills as a passer have to develop for him to see more game action.
Joe Lister: I’m going to take the boring approach here and say that while Pribula should have a few more looks in games, this is still Allar’s offense. Allar is the starting quarterback for a reason, and while his numbers aren’t great — and were pretty bad against Rutgers — it isn’t always his fault. Allar’s ceiling is still very high, and realistically, he just needs receivers who can catch the ball. A Pribula-based offense isn’t a bad idea, but from what we’ve seen so far, there isn’t enough to say that there’d be much balance in the run and pass games.
Nolan Wick: I still think Drew Allar should be the starter. He has more upside and, although he hasn’t looked great, he’s shown flashes of greatness. He’s really a good wideout or two away from being a Heisman candidate, in my opinion. If Penn State’s new offensive coordinator is anything good, the same goes for that, too.
With Or Without Mike Yurcich, The Offense Is The Same
CJ Doebler: I didn’t expect the Nittany Lions to debut a new-look offense on Saturday, and they didn’t. All things considered, though, Saturday could’ve gone a lot worse. Ja’Juan Seider and Ty Howle were faced with a tough task. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t include the flashy plays that Penn State has been lacking all season. Franklin says that the offense met its big-play quota on Saturday, but that was largely a compliment to the run game.
With Allar leaving in the third quarter, it was apparent that Penn State was going to lean heavily on the run game, but the passing game wasn’t much help in the first half when Allar was healthy, anyway. It’s become increasingly obvious that Penn State’s passing game doesn’t have a playcalling problem but a lack of consistency at the wide receiver spot.
Joe Lister: If we know anything now, it’s that Franklin really hated Yurcich. In press conferences and various other media availabilities, Franklin has made it clear that he and Yurcich just didn’t click. He did so again Monday when he praised Seider and Howle for how well-ran the offense was against the Scarlet Knights.
That being said, there wasn’t a tangible difference against Rutgers. Sure, the play calls weren’t as wonky and you didn’t see Penn State going for a two-point conversion in the first quarter, but other than that, you could have not known Yurcich was fired before Saturday’s game, and the gameplan certainly wouldn’t have tipped you off that there was one less warm body in the Lasch Building.
I’m interested in what Penn State can put together offensively without Yurcich, but I don’t think we’ll see anything drastic until a bowl game or beyond.
Nolan Wick: I don’t think the offense will look any different until next season. There are clearly too many issues to sort out and fix in just a week, and they’re ones that require serious time and energy to be addressed. With that being said, though, Penn State should be able to do enough without an offensive coordinator to at least beat Michigan State in Detroit on Thursday. The Spartans’ defense isn’t good enough on paper to keep up.
Nick Singleton Is A Bust
CJ Doebler: For the majority of the season, the rhetoric around Nick Singleton has been “give him time.” There’s now one week left in the regular season and Singleton’s longest rush of the year is 20 yards. His long rush of 2022 was an 87-yard Rose Bowl touchdown.
Last year, Singleton carried the ball 156 times for 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns. This year, with one regular-season game and a bowl remaining, the running back has 584 yards and seven touchdowns on 145 carries. Despite the stats, Franklin says that Singleton has gotten better in other aspects of the game and has shown vast improvement since last year. Unfortunately, a large decrease in rushing production is a stat that can’t be overlooked.
Joe Lister: James Franklin tried to convince us all Monday that Singleton is a better running back than he was last year. He’s a better blocker in the run game, and he’s better with running routes in the pass game.
That might all be true, but what happened to the Singleton that we all knew and loved? Singleton was one of the nation’s best running backs as just a freshman, and he’s putting up just over half the yardage this year than he did last year. And last year, he had to beat out Noah Cain for a starting spot. Singleton might be able to run block all day, but he can’t just try bursts up the middle as his run game. We saw flashes of the old Singleton on Saturday when he was allowed to take the ball to the outside. Hopefully, that reemerges soon.
Nolan Wick: James Franklin said this week that Nick Singleton has gotten better, despite a lack of explosive plays. However, the lack of those plays is concerning. He was supposed to be one of the best running backs in America, so why hasn’t he?
Aside from the statistics, it’s a deeper issue that the new offensive coordinator needs to address. If that backfield returns to what it was in 2022 next season, which it totally can, I’d be scared if I were an opposing defensive coordinator.
Kaden Saunders Is The Future Of The Wide Receiving Corps
CJ Doebler: No one knows who is going to take over as the leader of the wide receivers, so I guess Kaden Saunders is as good a choice as any. Saunders has one touchdown this year but has only caught six balls for 56 yards. Saunders was brought to Penn State to eventually be one of the lead guys, but he hasn’t seen much playing time during his first year after his redshirt season. Saunders has had flashes of good plays — he caught a touchdown late against Ohio State and provided a spark on a fourth-down conversion play against Michigan on one of the only good plays for the Nittany Lions all day. KeAndre Lambert-Smith hasn’t been the top receiver that Penn State needs him to be, and it may be time to explore other options.
Joe Lister: Who knows? KeAndre Lambert-Smith isn’t really doing much to state his case as the team’s best receiver, and Trey Wallace can’t stay healthy. Right now, it feels like Penn State has four different guys all catching balls, but none of them deserve a starting spot. That weakness is what hurt the team against Ohio State and Michigan, and it’s what will hurt them down the road. Frankly, Penn State needs to make a splash in the transfer portal this offseason to have some semblance of a wide receiver corps.
Nolan Wick: Your guess is as good as mine. Kaden Saunders is speedy and capable of making catches, as the former outfielder was a four-star in high school. That evaluation shouldn’t be lost on anyone here. Even though he hasn’t done much at the college level, I think the coaching staff will take their chances on him and other receivers who haven’t seen much action against Michigan State and in whichever bowl game Penn State ends up playing in.
Penn State Should Hit The Transfer Portal For A QB
CJ Doebler: There’s a position that Penn State needs to pick up in the transfer portal, and it’s not at quarterback. What the Nittany Lions need are receivers that can get open and make plays for their quarterback. This year’s squad has shown that they struggle with that.
Allar hasn’t been everything that the Penn State offense needed him to be this year, but there’s not even close to a legitimate reason to hit the panic button quite yet. Penn State went all in on Allar early, and while that may be a result of Mike Yurcich, Franklin can’t be ready to give up this early.
Joe Lister: As Ethan Grunkemeyer’s biggest fan, no way. Even if you don’t like Allar and you think Pribula’s talent is limited, there’s no reason to delve into the portal. All signs point to Jaxon Smolik being a pretty good backup, and Grunkemeyer, Penn State’s quarterback commit arriving on campus in January, is a darn good gunslinger, too.
I stand by my defense of Allar. The guy has a really high ceiling, it’s just a matter of pushing the right buttons. Do you guys think that Lincoln Riley would want a job as Penn State’s offensive coordinator?
Nolan Wick: Definitely not. Drew Allar has talent and immense potential, he just needs someone to catch the ball. The program’s top priority on that front needs to be getting a wide receiver to turn him into a Heisman contender, which is possible.
Aside from Allar, Beau Pribula is a great backup and Jaxon Smolik and Ethan Grunkemeyer seem like they’ll be valuable assets of the program for the next few years. There’s plenty of depth here, folks.
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About the Author
For the second year in a row, the Land Grant Trophy is headed back to State College.
Tickets for the event will go on sale 10 a.m. Friday, December 1.
Were the Ford Field end zones Penn State fans?