STATE COLLEGE – The anticipation for the first start of Drew Allar’s career was beyond measure, maybe even unprecedented at Penn State.
He’s been described as the elite quarterback that the Nittany Lions have lacked.
It’s more than enough to make a 19-year-old struggle or even crumble.
“He hasn’t talked about it, but there’s clearly a lot of pressure on him being that guy,” wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith said, “the person who Penn State people think is about to save the program.
“There could be a lot of pressure. I felt like he handled it well. He’s pretty consistent being the same guy.”
Allar was unfazed and unflappable Saturday night before the largest crowd for a Beaver Stadium opener. He completed 21-of-29 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the Lions’ 38-15 victory over West Virginia.
He delivered the kind of performance that Penn State fans have been waiting two years to see.
It was his remarkable poise. His arm strength. His timing. His decision-making. His mobility. He showed all of those against a defense that threw blitzes at him on nearly every down.
“I know if I was to go in there as the starting quarterback in my first game, I would be a little nervous,” Penn State linebacker Curtis Jacobs said. “But he’s cold, man. He just comes in here and attacks every day. It really comes from his preparation, how he practices and how he works every day.”
Allar sent the 110,747 fans, many lubricated from a full day of tailgating, into apoplexy on his first series. On first down from the Penn State 28, he stepped up in the pocket to escape the rush and unleashed a strike 40 to 45 yards to the well-covered Lambert-Smith for a touchdown.
It was a throw that few quarterbacks can make.
“The guys on the backside of the progression continue to work into my vision,” Allar said, “because they know my mentality when I escape the pocket. I’m looking forward to the future just because that’s when the bigger plays happen.
“We extend plays because coverage usually can’t hold up that well. The receivers did a great job tonight.”
Allar spread the football around, completing passes to eight receivers. Lambert-Smith finished with four catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns and Trey Wallace had seven receptions for 72 yards.
He fired two errant passes, one in the second quarter that was nearly intercepted and another that he threw low under pressure to Lambert-Smith on a slant route early in the third quarter.
That was it.
“That’s the Drew that we saw in preseason camp,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “To be honest, that’s the Drew we saw in unlimited (practice) reps last year. They’re really good things.
“He just feels very poised and competent.”
The Mountaineers smartly played a lot of “cover zero” against a first-time starter, bringing the safeties up to crowd the line of scrimmage to stop running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen and to rush Allar.
He handled it with aplomb with the help of strong blitz pickups from Singleton and Allen..
“Drew was able to execute the cover zero plan except for one play,” Franklin said. “I thought he managed it well.”
Penn State will play better defenses than West Virginia the rest of the year, but Allar likely will get better, too, which is a scary thought.
He finished with the third-highest passing yards by a Lion in his first start at quarterback, trailing only Michael Robinson’s 379 yards against Wisconsin in 2003 and Mike McQueary’s 366 yards against Pitt in 1997.
“I’m not surprised by Drew because I saw him all camp and I know what he’s capable of doing,” defensive end Chop Robinson said. “I could see it last year once he was getting reps. Tonight he was giving the fans what they wanted to see.
“The way he just slings the ball, he’s going to be something special. He’s going to be a great player.”
Source: Berkshire mont