COLUMBUS, Ohio — It happened again. Penn State football came into Saturday with an opportunity to get a statement win and firmly cement itself in the College Football Playoff picture. And for the seventh year in a row, the Nittany Lions ran into the brick wall that is the Ohio State Buckeyes, losing 20-12. Out of sync from the start, Drew Allar and the Penn State offense struggled to move the ball all afternoon. The Nittany Lions defense held the potent Ohio State offense in step, but headlined by the loss of star EDGE rusher Chop Robinson, the unit could not hold the Buckeyes forever. In the end, it all came together to equal Penn State’s first loss of the season, and James Franklin has still yet to beat a top-10 team on the road.
We’ll have full coverage and updates from James Franklin about what went wrong for Penn State football throughout the afternoon. But here are three quick thoughts as we start to digest this first blow of the 2023 season.
Drew Allar, offense look anemic in first major test
Today was the biggest game for the young career of Drew Allar. And at times, it certainly looked like the 19-year-old knew it. Ohio State brought pressure early and often, rushing many of Allar’s already quickly-designed throws.
Penn State football gave Iowa a run for its money offensively today. Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton combined for nearly 50 yards on the ground in the first quarter. But once the Ohio State defense locked down, Allar and the Penn State offense struggled to find consistency. The top-five scoring offense only mustered six first-half points.
Somehow, it only got worse in the second half. The Nittany Lions failed to find the scoreboard until the final minute of the game and had only one drive that went over 20 yards in the final two quarters.
Allar finished the day 18-42 for 191 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t all on the sophomore QB, as the Penn State WRs could not create any separation in the passing game all day. The Nittany Lions finished with 49 yards on the ground, and went a pitiful 1-16 on third down.
After an entire offseason of expectations for what this game could look like with a talent like Drew Allar at QB, the Penn State offense was nowhere to be found today. We’ll be anxious to hear what James Franklin has to say about this performance, because in many ways, it’s inexcusable.
Loss of Chop Robinson is a critical blow
Saturday was billed as an epic matchup with potential first-round NFL Draft picks all over the field. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, one of their star playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, Chop Robinson, was lost to injury midway through the second quarter.
It was a scary scene when Robinson hit the turf face down after taking what looked like a blow to the head. He was eventually helped to his feet, but it was clear that Robinson needed assistance getting to the Penn State sideline. Robinson was shown being carted off the sideline to the locker room several minutes later.
We’ll hear from James Franklin shortly, who will hopefully have some sort of update on the condition of his star EDGE rusher. But if Chop Robinson misses any substantial length of time, it could be a serious blow to the Penn State defense.
Penn State defense is still legit
If there was a silver lining on Saturday, it’s that the Nittany Lions defense still looked like the real deal. While Penn State football couldn’t replicate its eye-popping numbers from the first half of the season, that was to be expected with this level of competition.
However, the tale of the tape is what we’ve seen all too often with Penn State in these bigger games. The Nittany Lions offense couldn’t stay on the field, forcing the defense to try and stop the Buckeyes again and again.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than the sequence at the end of the third quarter/start of the fourth quarter. Manny Diaz and the defense came up with a spectacular goal line stand, only to have the offense go three-and-out. Penn State caught a break on the ensuing punt, with Tyler Elsdon recovering a muff off Buckeye Julian Fleming. But with the ball near midfield, the offense responded with yet another three-and-out. Brutal.
All told, the Nittany Lions allowed 20 points and 374 yards over almost 34 minutes of possession for the Buckeyes. Not awful considering the caliber of the opponent and the amount of time the unit was on the field. While today’s loss isn’t a deadly blow, if Penn State football doesn’t get its offensive woes resolved, it won’t matter how good the defense plays down the stretch.
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