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James Franklin blames play calling for Drew Allar struggles vs Michigan

James Franklin pointed the blame at offensive play calling after Drew Allar had his worst game of the year against Michigan.



James Franklin, Drew Allar, Penn State football, Michigan football, Mike Yurcich
November 11, 2023. Penn State QB Drew Allar (15) throws to WR Dante Cephas (3) during the Nittany Lions' 24-15 loss to Michigan. Credit: Grace Carella // Basic Blues Nation, 2023.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Once again, Penn State football came into a game against a top five team with everything to prove. And once again, the Nittany Lions offense was left looking for answers in a crushing 24-15 loss to Michigan Saturday afternoon. Although it wasn’t a complete no-show like Ohio State three weeks ago, Mike Yurcich and the offense disappeared from the stage in the game’s biggest moments. For no other Nittany Lion was this more emblematic than QB Drew Allar, who finished with his worst stat line of the season by far. While (once again) there’s plenty of blame to go around, after the game, James Franklin pointed to play calling as the primary reason behind Allar’s woes.

Another empty performance for the Penn State offense

Unlike the Ohio State game three weeks ago, there actually was some reason for optimism on offense early on for Penn State football. Going into halftime down by five to Michigan, the Nittany Lions had almost 150 yards of offense in the first half. Mike Yurcich and Penn State were having some luck with the defensive front for Michigan football, racking up 107 yards on 5.4 yards per carry. 

But whatever the Nittany Lions had against Michigan in the first half, it stayed in the locker room. In a game where drives were at a minimum, Penn State gave a possession away to start the second half following a Drew Allar fumble. Penn State proceeded to run 16 plays for 23 yards on its next four possessions. A final eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive made the final score look much closer than the game actually was. 

After looking like he had found the missing piece last week at Maryland, Drew Allar struggled mightily again against the Michigan defense. Allar finished the day going 10-22 for 74 yards and a touchdown, by far his worst passing game of his young career. The sophomore QB also finished with 49 yards and a score on the ground.

James Franklin blames play calling for Drew Allar’s struggles against Michigan football

Much like the last time he faced the bright lights of a top-10 matchup, it was clear that Drew Allar was out of sorts all afternoon. Allar and the Penn State receivers were out of sync all day, with only three Nittany Lions having multiple catches. The sophomore QB was flustered in the pocket all game, and numerous times was left throwing to air. 

Obviously, in a poor outing such as this, there’s plenty of blame to go around. But when asked what specifically led to Allar’s poor game against Michigan, Penn State football coach James Franklin was quick to point to the offensive play calling.

“We’ve got to do a better job of calling a game to allow our quarterback to get into rhythm,” Franklin said after the game. “That is critical. We’ve got to find easy completions for a quarterback to get into rhythm. That’s what everybody does. We’ve got to do a good job of that. And then on top of that, although there weren’t sacks, there were too many pressures and there were too many times where we were not creating separation. Very similar to the other game [Ohio State] we talked about.” 

What was the offensive game plan against Michigan?

With only three drives going for more than 25 yards, it was clear that whatever James Franklin and Mike Yurcich had planned for the offense against Michigan, it didn’t work. After the game, Franklin pointed to a focus of staying ahead off the sticks. However, this was mitigated by another poor showing on third down, going 4-14 on the day.

“I thought early on it was to do everything we possibly could to stay on schedule and not be in third-and-long situations,” Franklin said of the game plan. “I thought we did that for the most part. We still weren’t as efficient on third down as obviously we need to be; that was the biggest issue.” 

Now clearly out of the Big Ten title and College Football Playoff hunt, Penn State football will look to salvage the rest of the 2023 season. The Nittany Lions face Rutgers at home next weekend before traveling to Detroit to play Michigan State to close out the year.

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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.