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Penn State Football

Examining Penn State Football’s Red Zone Trip at the End of the 3rd Quarter Against WVU

Photo by Matt Lynch, Nittany Sports Now: Mike Yurcich

There wasn’t much to complain about with Penn State football quarterback Drew Allar’s first game as a starter.

He went 21 for 29 for 325 yards and threw for three touchdowns in the Penn State’s 38-15 win over West Virginia.

Maybe even more importantly, Allar looked like he was worth every bit of the hype that’s been surrounding him since he got to Happy Valley.

Not bad for a true sophomore.

But there was a sequence that raised some eyebrows at the end of the third quarter.

On 1st and goal from the WVU 7, Allar found Dante Cephas for what should have been an easy touchdown.

But Cephas dropped the pass.

On second down, Allar could have thrown a better ball to Harrison Wallace, but it was a ball that still needed to be caught and wasn’t, which brought up third down.

Kaytron Allen rushed up the middle for a 1-yard loss.

The drive ended on Alex Felkins’ 25-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it a 24-7 lead.

It was a curious decision by offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and co. to run the ball on third down after passing on the first two downs.

So why run the ball on third down?

Somebody on Penn State’s sideline clearly liked what they saw on first down. Penn State started off with a run-heavy formation but audibled to a sideline route to Cephas.

Cephas just dropped what would have been a clear touchdown had he secured the catch.

 

On the second-down pass to Wallace, he had to have been the hot route because Allar was heavily pressured by the Mountaineers’ pass rush. Again, Allar could have made a better throw on it. The throw was a little high, but he didn’t have a whole lot of time, and Wallace probably wasn’t expecting to see the ball so soon.

So what did Yurcich draw up on third down, knowing it hadn’t been the greatest trip through the red area?

He ran a counter to Allen, who didn’t have a whole lot of running room and lost a yard. Some fans may not have liked the call, but it probably wasn’t that bad.

Time ran out for the rest of the third quarter, and Penn State then had a fourth-and-goal for the first play of the fourth quarter. The score was 21-7 at that point. Whether Penn State scored a touchdown or a field goal that series, they would need to make it a three-possession game. And that was imperative at that point because the game wasn’t exactly sealed.

You might say that the Penn State’s coaches weren’t interested in seeing another drop on third-and-goal, but that may be unfair because the wideouts caught pretty much everything else from Allar the whole night.

The other aspect is Penn State’s special teams were having a lousy night up to that point, most notably on the kicking game. Starting placekicker Sander Sahaydak missed a 38 and a 34-yarder within two minutes at the end of the first half. The kicker switch had already been made from Sahaydak to Felkins for the PAT on the third quarter touchdown pass from Allar to KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

It wouldn’t be out of the question for coach James Franklin to want to attempt a short field goal by Felkins to start the fourth quarter. If he makes it, and Felkins did make the 25-yarder, Penn State’s up 24-7 and it will be that much tougher for WVU to come back. Maybe even more importantly, Penn State had something positive to build on, and the staff at least knew the kicking game wasn’t a complete disaster. If Felkins would have missed, the Mountaineers still would have had a long field to work with in their next possession. And again, maybe even more importantly, the coaching staff would know just how dire the situation would have been in the kicking game.

A lot of coaches may have attempted another third down pass, but nothing ever looks as bad as it seems. The Felkins field goal was bigger than it appeared, maybe more so from a mental standpoint, but it was also a key to securing the win.

By the way, speaking of Sahaydak, the way his career has started is very reminiscent to former PSU kicker Sam Ficken. Everyone knows Ficken turned out to be more than just okay. Don’t write off Sahaydak after one half, and just two kicks.

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