Analyzing Post-Ole Miss Reactions For Penn State Football
Another season has come and gone for Penn State football, folks.
With the Nittany Lions’ loss against Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, fans won’t see Penn State play football until the Blue-White Game in April, and the team won’t play a real game until August 30 in Morgantown, West Virginia.
With a third loss in the rearview mirror, Penn State fans had a lot of things to say on the internet. One last time, our football writers broke down the hottest takes from Saturday’s game.
Drew Allar Is A Fraud
Joe Lister: Drew Allar is an underperforming quarterback who’s in a tight spot. I’m not exactly holding Allar in the light I did at the beginning of the season, but I’m not ready to send him to Washington State as a transfer just yet. He didn’t perform well against Ohio State and Michigan, but that can probably be blamed on Mike Yurcich blatantly misusing him.
Against Ole Miss — yes, Allar was bad. He also had no real receivers. KeAndre Lambert-Smith, who was supposed to be Allar’s best target — dropped his only target. Trey Wallace went down with another injury. Liam Clifford and Kaden Saunders were, well, Liam Clifford and Kaden Saunders.
Let Allar play for a different program, and he’s a better quarterback. He’s just trapped in Happy Valley right now.
C.J. Doebler: Give Allar the pieces he needs, and he will live up to his five-star rating. Right now, he doesn’t have the support around him he needs. Franklin needs to snag a wide receiver from the portal who’s capable of making plays when Allar needs him.
The Peach Bowl was bad, but it was more than just Allar. In the season opener against West Virginia, Allar completed passes to five different wide receivers. On Saturday, no wide receiver caught a pass until early in the third quarter. That isn’t all on the quarterback.
This wasn’t the season anyone expected from Allar, but I hesitate to call him a fraud. With a new offensive coordinator and potential new talent at wide receiver, next year can be different.
Nolan Wick: He wasn’t a fraud, but he certainly didn’t live up to expectations this season, realistic or not. To be quite honest, he could’ve benefitted from another year of playing behind an established veteran starter like Sean Clifford.
He didn’t play well in big games and didn’t respond well to pressure from opposing defenses, as he made many poorly-timed and inaccurate throws throughout the season. However, it wasn’t all his fault. The Mike Yurcich experiment didn’t work, and he didn’t have a consistent wide receiver. There are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic because he’s got lots of raw talent. He has a cannon of an arm, and his awareness in the pocket took a big step forward. If Andy Kotelnicki is the right hire and he gets a little help, Allar can be a serious Heisman contender.
Beau Pribula Should Start For Penn State Next Season
Joe Lister: OK, after I just defended Allar for three grafs, but Beau Pribula should have a chance to compete for the starting gig. Pribula played the same defense Allar did Saturday, but Pribula looked better in the snaps he got.
When I spoke with Pribula after Saturday’s game, he twice repeated the line that he just wanted to play whatever role he could for Penn State. I believe that, but it’s hard to avoid the feeling he wants more. Maybe he deserves more.
C.J. Doebler: Franklin continuously told the media there was a battle for the starting quarterback position in the lead-up to this season. No one believed him, and it was generally accepted that Allar was going to be the starter.
Looking back, it might’ve been closer than originally thought. Pribula was used more like a running back when he took snaps this season, but it worked.
Pribula played well in the Peach Bowl, and I think he should’ve been used more. He threw a 48-yard touchdown pass, and Franklin went back to Allar on the next series. I don’t think it would’ve been a slight to Allar if Pribula got more time in the second half. All things considered, I won’t think Franklin is lying this offseason if he says he doesn’t know who next year’s starter will be.
Nolan Wick: It’s still Allar’s job to lose; the ceiling is too high. It would be nice if he passed more, but his mobility is impressive. Keep in mind that we haven’t seen nearly as much as the coaching staff, so there’s a reason why Pribula doesn’t start. However, based on the sample size we saw this season, he’s definitely capable of being a power-five starter, but I’d still stick with Allar for now.
Penn State’s Wide Receivers Are Killing The Team
Joe Lister: Like I said with Allar, he’d be so much better with some quality receivers. Even if Penn State’s wideouts are more than confident in their abilities, it’s clear that confidence is undeserved. Penn State’s wide receivers didn’t get open and only two recorded receptions. Instead, a running back, three tight ends, and Drew Allar combined for 13 catches against the entire wide receiving corps’ seven.
C.J. Doebler: They certainly don’t think so. Unfortunately, retweets don’t win games — catching passes does. If the passing game was a consistent threat throughout the season, I think a lot of the Nittany Lions’ problems go away.
Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen might’ve been able to find more room to run if the defense had focused on the air attack, and Allar would have been more confident if he knew his receivers would give him a target. A lot of things went wrong this year, and the wide receivers were a large part of the issue.
Nolan Wick: If Allar had just one reliable playmaker on a consistent basis, this would’ve been a better team. It’s problematic that the program hasn’t landed a wideout in the transfer portal, as it’s the biggest need heading into next season. Penn State needs more from its receivers as better teams join the Big Ten in order to keep up.
James Franklin Always Comes Up Short In Big Games
Joe Lister: It’s a little awkward to say James Franklin can’t win in games that matter when he won the Rose Bowl last year. Still, Lane Kiffin took Franklin to the dog house. Yes, Franklin lost a number of important players due to opt-outs, but he was out-coached and out-prepared. There were a few moments during the game when the camera panned to Franklin and he just looked lost. The prepared excuse of “too many moving parts” doesn’t exactly establish confidence either.
Tag all that with losses against the only two other good teams Penn State played this year, and it just gets harder to defend Franklin.
C.J. Doebler: Franklin won the Rose Bowl last year, so I hesitate to say always. However, he usually loses. Having two opt-outs in the secondary definitely put the Nittany Lions’ at a disadvantage, but Ole Miss ran all over the backups and exposed the underpreparedness of the secondary.
Franklin’s resume is quickly going from questionable to bad. The landscape of the Big Ten changes next year… maybe he’ll have the former Pac-12’s number.
Nolan Wick: We’ve addressed this consistently throughout the season, and for good reason. He’s getting paid too much money to lose to Ohio State and Michigan every year, and losing to a beatable Ole Miss team is frustrating not just because it happened, but how. The Rebels had a weak run defense that Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen should’ve exposed, but instead only combined for 101 rushing yards.
KeAndre Lambert-Smith Should Leave Penn State
Joe Lister: Folks on Twitter have called Lambert-Smith a locker room diva who hurts the team more than he hurts it. I won’t go that far — I honestly don’t know what he’s like behind the scenes. I will note that Lambert-Smith dropped his only target of the game and told reporters in the locker room he wasn’t answering questions. The next day, he chirped at fans while appearing to criticize his quarterback and offensive coordinators in a since-deleted tweet.
What I will say is Lambert-Smith doesn’t look like someone who should start for Penn State based purely upon on-field performance. Whether he transfers or not is his own call, but he’s just not there as a player to deserve starting reps on the field.
C.J. Doebler: I think Lambert-Smith can still be a positive asset to Penn State. He just has to be comfortable being the No. 2 receiver under talent Franklin pulls from the portal. Many wide receivers thrive in the No. 2 spot but fail to be “the guy,” when playing as the top receiver. As for the tweets, it’s a bad look. However, I’ve often praised Franklin for the culture inside Penn State, and I think any attitude problems will be sorted out quickly.
Nolan Wick: Lambert-Smith’s lack of involvement against Ole Miss is alarming. He was only targeted once and didn’t make the catch. He’s not a true WR1, but he can be productive. However, given that he was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and hasn’t quite been as good as he probably believes he can be, I can envision a world where he considers it. I find that more unlikely than not, though.
All The Secondary’s Play-Makers Just Left For The Draft
Joe Lister: It sure looked like it. With Kalen King and Johnny Dixon both unavailable, Penn State’s secondary got taken to church. Daequan Hardy and Keaton Ellis will both be gone next year, even if Ellis has yet to officially announce it. There are going to be some holes to fill in that group.
If Penn State wants to survive next year, Cam Miller and Zion Tracy are going to have to really step it up in the offseason.
C.J. Doebler: It wasn’t exactly a statement game from the inexperienced secondary, but it was good for the younger players to get significant game experience. When Joey Porter Jr. left last year, Kalen King was waiting to take over. There isn’t a clear replacement for the talent in the secondary this time around, but there’s a whole offseason for improvement.
Nolan Wick: Losing Kalen King and Daequan Hardy is significant, but despite Saturday’s tough showing, there’s plenty of young and raw talent in the room. Zion Tracy and Elliot Washington II are two names to watch throughout the offseason, as both were highly rated coming into college and could be the heirs apparent to the cornerback slots.
Penn State Has No Hope For The 2024 Season
Joe Lister: I’ve been pretty doom and gloom in this article, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s over for Penn State. Allar can develop, Singleton and Allen looked positive at the end of the year, and the linebackers are still pretty good. There are going to be a ton of gaps to fill, but don’t tell the fat lady to start singing just yet.
It’s going to come down to how good Kotelnicki and Allen are at their jobs.
C.J. Doebler: Coming off of a Rose Bowl win last year, the lead-up to the 2023 season was filled with high expectations. This offseason is going to have an entirely different feel, but I think that’s good for the program. The players are clearly upset, with many of them taking to Twitter in frustration. I think that’s enough to light a fire under the team and lead to a productive offseason.
Nolan Wick: Much of what could happen is unknown. How will Allen and Kotelnicki do, for instance, is just the beginning of it. Then, it’s fair to ask how conference realignment will affect the team next season. I think there’s hope, but there’s a lot of wild cards that may or may not end up benefitting the team. Enjoy the offseason, everybody.
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About the Author
The Nittany Lions participated in a max-out lifting session to mark the end of winter workouts.
Gaines was committed to the Nittany Lions for nearly a year.
Sophomore forward Tessa Janecke also earned CHA Player of the Year and Forward of the Year distinctions.