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Smeltzer: Drew Allar Threw it Deep, Cleaned up Mess

Drew Allar and Beau Pribula.

Penn State QB Drew Allar has a long way to go to be the best quarterback named Drew in Big Ten history.

Currently, that title belongs do some guy named Brees, who led Purdue to the Rose Bowl and had a respectable NFL career, too.

During that Rose Bowl season, Brees made a big mistake in a big game that could have helped kill Purdue’s Pasadena dreams.

Late against Ohio State, Brees threw an interception that set up OSU’s go-ahead score. With just over two minutes left, Purdue went back on the ball down 27-24. Before that, Purdue senior Ike Moore gave Brees a message:

“What’d your Mom always tell you?” Moore asked Brees. “If you break something, fix it.”

Brees responded by throwing a game-winning 64-yard TD pass.

Now, there were differences in Allar’s situation Saturday against Indiana.

For one, Indiana isn’t Ohio State.

Allar’s in just his second year of college football and his first as a starter. Brees was in Year 4 when Purdue beat Ohio State that night. Penn State also came into the IU game as 32-point favorites, which nobody ever will against Ohio State. But with 2:56 left, Allar had a chance to make Ike Moore proud.

“If you break something, fix it.”

The breaking happened with a little more than five minutes to go.

Penn State was nursing a 24-21 lead against the scrappy underdog, and Allar threw his first college interception.

This set IU up at the Penn State 21.

For God knows what reason, Indiana played for the tie as a 32-point underdog, and got it by kicking a field goal. Now, Allar had a chance to save the day.

With 2:56 left, Penn State went back on the ball. It took a little more than a minute for Allar to clean up his mess, and he did so in grand fashion. Allar hit his No. 1 receiver, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, for a 57-yard score to give Penn State a lead it wouldn’t lose.

Allar’s had a lost of “firsts” this season. He had his first college start against WVU under the Beaver Stadium lights Sept. 3. He had his first Big Ten and road start two weeks later at Illinois. The next week, he started his first White Out game against Iowa.

More recently, Allar suffered his first loss as a starter on a brutal afternoon in Columbus. This loss left Allar saying he “sucked” against the Buckeyes and holding back tears while talking with reporters postgame. The next week, Allar, who set the NCAA record for most passes without an interception to begin his college career, threw one at a particularly inconvenient time. To avoid feeling the same way he did at Ohio State, if not worse, Allar needed to do something else he’d never done at the college level—  lead a game-winning drive.

With a schedule like Penn State’s— 10 average at-best-teams, Ohio State and Michigan— Allar won’t have many chances to shine late in the game. Hell, almost everybody would have bet for Allar to be on the bench late against Indiana, not leading a two-minute drill. Penn State won its first six games by an average of more than 36 points, and Allar got to rest in all of them. Allar didn’t get to rest against Ohio State, but he didn’t get a chance to lead a game-winning drive, either. So nobody knew what Drew Allar could do in crunch time of a college game.

Well, we know now.

The way Allar succeeded is also worth talking about.

Allar had thrown 15 touchdown passes before hitting Lambert-Smith, and only one of them would be considered long.

That happened on the fourth offensive play of Penn State’s season against WVU. A broken play turned into a 72-yard TD. Lambert-Smith ran for about half of those 72 yards after catching the ball, so it’s hard to argue that Allar threw the ball deep in that situation.

In the many weeks since that play, the words “throw it deep” or “chuck it deep” have become infamous amongst Penn State fans and even James Franklin himself.

But through almost eight full games, Allar, a young man with a golden arm, hadn’t thrown a touchdown with his deep ball.

He has now.

It’s fair to wonder if Allar’s first interception will unlock anything. Now that he’s experienced it, will he be less timid? Will offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich design more plays for Allar to uncork that Golden arm? Based on what happened in the Indiana game, maybe so.

Allar and Penn State’s offense have work to do, and it remains to be seen if the Indiana game will serve as a launching pad.

But Drew Allar delivered in his first chance to save the day at Penn State, and him doing so after making what could have been a massive mistake is encouraging.

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