Penn State football was looking to rebound after its first loss of the season to Ohio State in Columbus. However, Indiana proved to be a tougher test than anticipated. That is, until Drew Allar delivered a 57-yard strike to put the Nittany Lions over the top in what ended as a 33-24 win.
Penn State keeps its College Football Playoff hopes alive with the victory, but how do we feel about the Nittany Lions after a sluggish showing on Saturday? Here are five takeaways from the win over the Hoosiers.
Indiana did something that we hadn’t seen in the first 7 games of the season: score three touchdowns against the Penn State defense. The 24 points were the most that the Nittany Lions had given up all season.
What was particularly alarming was how Indiana scored its first two touchdowns. The first was a 90-yard pass where the secondary got beat and the second was a 69-yard touchdown throw where there was some confusion leaving a Hoosier wide receiver wide open.
In total, the Hoosiers racked up 349 total yards and converted 14 first downs. It certainly was an uncharacteristic performance by the Penn State defense.
However, despite giving up some big plays, the Nittany Lions also forced key turnovers that led directly to points. An interception at the end of the half resulted in a Penn State field goal giving them a 17-14 lead. The most crucial play came when Dani Dennis-Sutton stripped Indiana QB Brendan Sorsby, and the ball bounced around until it eventually found its way through the back of the end zone for a safety.
While this wasn’t the best performance by Manny Diaz’s crew, there were enough key plays to help close the game out.
Finally, a deep throw from Drew Allar
Penn State football fans have been asking for Drew Allar to throw it deep all season. Everyone is probably now aware of the reaction that James Franklin gave when asked if the Nittany Lions will ever just throw it deep and let the WR make a play.
We finally saw how good Drew Allar could be, with a go-ahead 57-yard touchdown late in the 4th quarter. It was the longest pass of the season for Allar in terms of air yards.
Much of the reason why Penn State hasn’t thrown deep was because of the lack of separation created by the wide receivers. We saw that again on Saturday as the wideouts had less than 50 yards combined before the deep touchdown catch by KeAndre Lambert-Smith.
Allar has the arm talent to hit long throws, whether we see more down the stretch of the season will be if the wide receivers can get open and give him a chance.
Is the pressure now off Allar?
Drew Allar had the most attempts in college football history before throwing his first interception. However, it came at a poor time, as it gave the Hoosiers the ball in Penn State territory leading to a field goal that tied the game at 24 with under 3 minutes to play.
But Allar bounced back the very next drive with his longest touchdown of the season (in the air) to Lambert-Smith. It will be interesting to see if Allar plays less cautious and conservative now that the first interception is out of the way.
Will we see Allar take more chances with deep shots in one-on-one coverage? The first test will be on the road in College Park against Maryland. If Penn State is able to get the downfield passing game going, maybe that game against Michigan in two weeks won’t be so daunting after all.
Offensive line might just be bad
This was supposed to be the best offensive line of the James Franklin coaching tenure. There certainly are a lot of blue-chip players throughout the room. Left Tackle Olu Fashanu is a projected first-round pick, and yet the line as a whole struggles immensely. Specifically, the interior offensive line is constantly forcing quick throws by Allar or forcing him to leave the pocket.
Where the line has struggled the most this year is in the run game. Yet again, both running backs had some solid gains. Kaytron Allen averaged 4.5 yards per carry, and Nick Singleton averaged 3.3 yards per carry. But it seems the issue is that the offensive line isn’t making it to the next level and giving the backs a chance to break long runs.
If the interior line can get to the second level and pick up a linebacker or safety, both Singleton and Allen have the ability to make a player miss and break a long touchdown run. We will see if Penn State football can get it going against Maryland, a team that just lost to Northwestern 33-27.
Avoiding the upset
This game shouldn’t have been close. The spread was 31.5 points in favor of Penn State football. Yet, the Nittany Lions trailed for much of the 1st half and were tied with under 3 minutes to play in the game.
Indiana is not a good football team, plain and simple. The fact that it was this close was embarrassing based on the caliber of athletes on each team. But sometimes after an emotional win or loss, it isn’t surprising to see a top team struggle. If Penn State football was playing anybody else but Indiana, it may have lost this game. And we can’t ignore that James Franklin hasn’t had a historically great record off of losses.
At the end of the day, Penn State got the win and still has everything left to play in front of them. Hopefully, this was just a bad game and won’t become a trend. The Nittany Lions can round back into pre-Ohio State form by having a decisive win over Maryland on Saturday.
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