The first of many critical social media posts came early Saturday in a game in which Penn State never trailed.
Understanding that fans can be a tad irrational, criticizing Drew Allar for his performance in the Nittany Lions’ 30-13 victory at Illinois showed they also can be out of touch.
Allar was Penn State’s best offensive player against the Illini, even though he didn’t account for a touchdown. In his first start on the road and against a Big Ten opponent, he never lost his composure or the football.
That’s not earth-shaking news. Allar has thrown 148 career passes, has played in 13 games and has yet to commit a turnover.
He wasn’t remotely close to tossing an interception against Illinois, which, by the way, has quality defensive personnel. Yet Allar managed to protect the football once again.
“It’s my No. 1 priority, by far,” he said. “We talk about it all the time. We want to lead the nation in turnover differential. Not having any turnovers is huge because you’re not swinging the momentum of the game.
“There weren’t any times in the game that the ball was put in jeopardy. We take pride in that as an offense.”
On the flip side, Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer threw four interceptions and it could easily have been six. Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, considered the top quarterback in the Big Ten, threw three interceptions Saturday against Bowling Green.
Look, the Penn State offense did not have its finest performance at Memorial Stadium. Far from it. But the Lions did score 30 points for the 10th straight game, which leads the nation, and they did mount a 70-yard touchdown drive when the outcome was in doubt in the third quarter.
It wasn’t a pretty performance, but they don’t have to apologize for it either. They faced adversity for the first time this season and still won by 17 points on the road with the help of five turnovers by the defense.
Penn State rushed for 162 yards and averaged more than 4 yards a carry, despite Illinois using five- and six-man fronts, crowding the line with as many as nine defenders and often outnumbering the Lions’ blockers.
College football coaches aren’t dummies; they watched Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen combine for 1,868 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground last season. Including Illinois’ Bret Bielema, who knows a thing or two about defense, they have taken away long runs by Singleton and Allen so far.
“That’s really what we want to do,” Singleton said. “Coach Seider (running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider) always preaches hard runs are really good runs, too. We’ll break out one of these times.”
If opponents continue to employ that strategy, Allar and the passing game can step up.
His deep sideline pass to Liam Clifford for 33 yards was a thing of beauty, which set up a field goal as time ran out in the first half. His numbers (16-for-33) weren’t sparkling, but he also had four passes dropped.
It was abundantly clear Saturday that the Lions missed wide receiver Trey Wallace, who participated in pregame warmups but who did not play. Allar completed passes to nine different receivers, but Illinois paid much attention to KeAndre Lambert-Smith, who was held to three receptions for 23 yards.
Singleton actually was Penn State’s leading receiver with three catches for 49 yards and gained 140 all-purpose yards.
“Teams have to defend the run and the pass,” Singleton said. “Drew can throw the ball. We have good receivers and tight ends. Illinois has really good players. They set the edge really well and made us go inside. Once they got tired, we were able to run the ball better.”
Even if they’re not vertical lines pointed north, the career arc of Allar and the season arc of the 2023 Lions are headed in the right direction. The ride will be choppy at times, something many fans can’t accept.
“He kept his cool,” Penn State coach James Franklin said about Allar. “He’s steady and poised. We did have some drops that made it harder than it needed to be. We weren’t as clean as we needed to be. He’ll learn from this and we’ll learn from this.”
Source: Berkshire mont