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James Franklin addresses Trey Wallace injury, Penn State WR drops vs Illinois

Following Saturday’s win at Illinois, James Franklin provided an update on the status of Trey Wallace, as well as gave his thoughts on Penn State’s WR play.



Penn State football, James Franklin, Trey Wallace, injury, WR
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Harrison Wallace III (6) makes a catch against Utah Utes safety R.J. Hubert (11) in the second half of the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Penn State football earned a 30-13 win on the road at Illinois. Although the score showed a comfortable win, it took the Nittany Lions some time to get there. Missing starting WR Harrison “Trey” Wallace III to injury, the Penn State passing attack struggled to get going and was plagued by drops all afternoon. Following the victory in Champaign, James Franklin touched on the absence of Trey Wallace and what he saw from the WRs on Saturday. 

Penn State passing game sputters at Illinois

Coming into 2023, one of the biggest questions surrounding this Penn State football team was the playmaking consistency at the WR position. But through two games, it seemed like those questions were resolved. 

Led by sensational performances from QB Drew Allar and WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Penn State lit up West Virginia for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air in Week 1. The Nittany Lions leaned on the run in Week 2 versus Delaware. Still, Penn State recorded a respectable 226 yards receiving with 2 scores. 

Facing an Illinois secondary that allowed over 500 yards passing through two games, it looked like the aerial attack was primed for another statement day. However, that didn’t happen on Saturday. 

Allar made plays when Penn State needed them, but looked rushed in the pocket most of the afternoon. He struggled on timing with his WRs, who turned in a handful of drops on the day. Overall, the Nittany Lions had 219 total passing yards against Illinois, but left several big plays on the field.

James Franklin addresses Trey Wallace injury, WR drops

A key factor in Penn State’s passing game woes was the absence of Trey Wallace. Wallace, who won the Nittany Lions’s WR position battle in camp, is averaging 9.8 yards per reception on 10 catches through two games this season. 

But on Saturday morning, we learned Wallace was questionable for the game against Illinois. He ultimately never saw the field. 

Transfer Malik McClain started in Wallace’s place. McClain recorded 1 reception for 6 yards but had 2 drops on the day. McClain was eventually replaced by redshirt freshman Kaden Saunders, who gave the Penn State passing game a nice spark late. 

After the game, James Franklin discussed the struggles of the Penn State offense, but specifically addressed the WR play. 

“We did have some drops that made it harder than it needed to be,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t have Trey Wallace today. So getting him back will be important for us. But then other guys got to step up as well. And we just kind of had some moving parts. [We] weren’t as clean as you need to be.”

When pressed more on the WR drops, Franklin noted that the unit wasn’t “as sharp as I think we have the capability of being.”

“I thought we were a little sluggish early on,” Franklin added. “Little things like how we motioned or how we broke out of the formation.”

What is the injury status of Trey Wallace?

The absence of Trey Wallace could prove to be critical for the Nittany Lions as Penn State football moves into Big Ten play. Wallace was highlighted as a player ready to step up all offseason, and we saw flashes of that in two games so far. 

As expected, James Franklin wouldn’t specifically address what led to Wallace’s absence on Saturday. 

“Our medical people make those decisions,” Franklin said. “They were not comfortable. They didn’t feel like he was ready to go.”

The injury status of Trey Wallace will be one of the most important storylines to watch this week. Penn State football returns to Beaver Stadium Saturday night to face Iowa in the annual White Out game. 

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A third-generation Penn Stater, Matt is Editor-in-Chief for Basic Blues Nation, co-host of the podcast PSU Tailgate Talk, and a credentialed member of the Penn State football media. Matt also works as a staffer in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Matt lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and a small army of pets.