The West Virginia game’s over, and Penn State won.
But before we put the WVU game to bed and move on to Delaware, here are some grades.
Everybody saw what Drew Allar did Saturday and many have read up on his performance since then, so no reason to write too much more about it. Allar had the most-hyped QB debut arguably in Penn Stats history, and he lived up to it. 21-for-29 with 325 yards, three touchdowns and no picks speaks for itself. There were some imperfections— two near-INTs and a low third-down throw to KeAndre Lambert-Smith that could have been a long touchdown— and those are the only things that keep this from being an A+.
Just thinking about how people were like “well how can we know if Penn State is actually gonna be good if Drew Allar is unproven”
…and then 5 minutes into the game he was like “let me clear that up for everyone” pic.twitter.com/FSsazt2ecQ
— Caroline (@_supcaroline) September 4, 2023
It wasn’t the most spectacular effort of either Nicholas Singleton or Kaytron Allen’s career, but they did their thing overall. Singleton (13 rushes, 70 yards, 1 TD) and Allen (10 rushes, 51 yards, 5.1 YPC) looked like themselves, albeit not carving up West Virginia’s suspect defense the way many thought they would. Whether it was because of Penn State’s somewhat unexpected success passing the ball or because of an underwhelming offensive line performance, neither Singleton or Allen dominated. But they’ll have plenty of chances to do that, and there’s no reason to think they won’t take advantage.
I wrote extensivley about Penn State’s receivers already. Eight people caught passes from Allar, and of those eight, five were receivers. How’s that for balance? Lambert-Smith (four catches, 123 yards, two TD) looked like a leading man, and Trey Wallace (seven catches, 72 yards) looked like a solid No. 2. Penn State also may have found its No. 3 in Malik McClain, who stepped up for four catches, 58 yards and his first Penn State touchdown after transferring from Florida State this winter. Penn State WR room probably doesn’t have a bonafide star like Jahan Dotson or Allen Robinson— both of which were at the game— but it has balance, and that balance should only improve when slot man Omari Evans is back.
Penn State’s tight ends combined for one catch and nine yards, so its hard to say too much about them. Theo Johnson blocked well to help set up a KLS first down on Penn State’s first drive, and it looks like Khalil Dinkins will fill now-Jaguar Brenton Strange’s role in the T-formation. But Penn State’s tight ends are legit, and they’ll be making their mark in the passing game soon enough.
There were multiple issues with Penn State’s offensive line Saturday. A few of Hunter Nourzad’s snaps were high enough where the 6-foot-5 Allar had to reach for them. Caedan Wallace didn’t block anybody on West Virginia’s only sack, and WVU pressured Allar several other times. JB Nelson held his own in his first start, replacing the medically retired Landon Tengwall, and Olu Fashanu was Olu Fashanu. But overall, Penn State’s offensive line should have dominated in the trenches, and it didn’t.
West Virginia’s OL and All-American candidate center Zach Frazier were expected to give Penn State trouble, and that’s what happened. This allowed running back CJ Donaldson to gain 81 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. West Virginia also blocked well enough for QB Garrett Greene to pick up 71 yards and a score on 15 carries. Penn State’s interior DL was already hurting with Old Dominion transfer Alonzo Ford being lost for the year, and was hurting further with Coziah Izzard being a late Week 1 scratch. So Penn State’s DL struggled, but in fairness, a lot of that can be attributed to West Virginia, especially Frazier, who looks like he’s destined for a fine NFL career. On the outside, Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac each looked unblockable at times. I noticed at least one hold on Robinson that wasn’t called, and he still managed a tackle for loss in the game. Isaac had a big third-down TFL to end West Virginia’s first possession, and rocked Greene on a fourth-down pass in the second half to force an incompletion. Simply put, those guys look like they’ll be a problem for opposing offenses in 2023.
So overall, Penn State’s ends did their thing, and although the interior left a lot to be desired, not a lot of OL’s they’ll be facing are as good as WVU.
Abdul Carter had a quiet night, but his only tackle was a sack. Dom DeLuca made a mistake in coverage that led to a 37-yard pass from Greene to former PSU commit Devin Carter on West Virginia’s only significant scoring drive. MIKE Kobe King had a solid outing with five tackles, but the star of the night was Curtis Jacobs. Jacobs, a man some see as a potential first-round pick,finished with 10 tackles (seven solo) and a sack, a sign that he could be in for the year Penn State fans have waited for from No. 23. So although Carter didn’t do a ton and DeLuca’s miscue helped lead to points for WVU, Penn State’s linebackers didn’t hurt the team much. King was good, Jacobs was great and we know Carter is a star.
Starting in place of now-Steeler Joey Porter Jr. isn’t easy, but Johnny Dixon looked solid, showing his versatility (pressuring Greene in the first quarter), his aggressiveness and his coverage skills (perfectly defended Carter on a deep ball in the second half). Coach James Franklin spoke highly of Cam Miller the previous Tuesday, and Miller delivered with four tackles off the bench, including a TFL. Projected first-rounder Kalen King also had four tackles and showed what he can do in the run. Although he got beat by Carter deep once, Penn State pressured Greene enough to where he threw an incomplete pass.
West Virginia isn’t a great passing team, but overall, Penn State’s secondary was fine.
Penn State wasn’t great Saturday, but it didn’t have to be. It won’t have to be great against Delaware, either. The season begins Week 3 at Illinois.