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Penn State Football’s Nick Singleton & Kaytron Allen Find Their Footing At Last

After 12 games, 860 plays, and 444 points, Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen finally scratched their itch.

In a 2023 season where Penn State football’s offense felt, well, underwhelming, Singleton and Allen were primary causes for concern. The Nittany Lions’ top two running backs, who created one of the country’s best running back duos last season, didn’t show up like fans thought they would against West Virginia.

Then the same thing happened against Delaware, UMass, Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana, Maryland, and almost every team Penn State faced this year. Neither running back put together a 100-yard performance against a set of teams that could’ve easily let the pair takeover the game. Instead, they were quiet as the offense relied on short yardage play calls and a receiving corps that used its tight ends to score more than its wide receivers.

It wasn’t until the Nittany Lions’ last game of the regular season against Michigan State that the pair finally had the game that had been delayed for so long. Singleton and Allen churned up 340 yards of turf in the air and on the ground en route to two touchdowns and a 42-0 win for Penn State.

“I felt good, finally. It just gives credit to everybody else doing their job blocking, Drew making good calls, coaches making great calls too,” Singleton said. “I’m gonna give credit to myself and give credit to everybody else in front. But it felt good.”

It was certainly a satisfying game for two running backs that exploded onto the scene last year as a duo and struggled this year as a duo. Each running back has said that watching the other play on the field was like watching themselves. On a day when both ball carriers exploded, it must have been double the fun.

The running back’s games were highlighted by what was missing from the Penn State offense the whole year: explosive plays. The Nittany Lions were ranked as one of the worst teams in the country for big-gain plays. Against Michigan State, however, both Singleton and Allen had plays of at least 50 yards. They were crucial aspects of a Penn State offense that just seemed unstoppable once the second half started.

Even better was that Singleton and Allen didn’t force anything. They didn’t play to a certain style forced upon them by Penn State’s play calls. They were just what they were expected to be: Singleton the powerful back that could explode at a moment’s notice on the perimeter, Allen the shifty running back whose feet could pick up yards when movement seemed impossible.

“[What felt different was] not trying to gameplan too much, not trying to put too many plays so that everybody knows what they’re supposed to do,” Singleton said.

There was certainly a different feel to the play calls against Michigan State. James Franklin had kicked his offensive coordinator, Mike Yurcich, out of the program after a poor performance against Michigan in early November. Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider and tight ends coach Ty Howle were placed in charge of the offense on an interim basis, and the difference was palpable by the second game that the pair was in charge.

Admittedly, there’s a somber aspect to this story: Singleton and Allen figured it out a few games too late. Performances like they had against Michigan State would have meant the world against Ohio State or Michigan. If the pair had this level of execution when the season started, Penn State could be playing in its first College Football Playoff. But the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl will have to wait another year.

Franklin may say that the running backs were better this year than last year. He’s said repeatedly that he looks at their whole game, which includes pass blocking, run blocking, route running, and everything in between. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that Penn State’s season could have been a bit different if the running backs were just a bit better as ball carriers over the course of 12 games.

But a 10-win season is no small feat, and it’s not one that Penn State’s players are turning their noses up at. A New Year’s Six game still lies ahead — the season wasn’t a complete disaster. With Singleton saying that he’ll be back next season, and Allen without a ton of motivation to transfer to another school, the Nittany Lions might just have one more chance to use their running backs to push for a playoff run.

Ask about them in September.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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