STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State’s coaches and players answered many questions this week about not letting the Ohio State result beat them twice. While it ultimately didn’t, there were certainly some tense moments on Saturday afternoon.
Here are some initial thoughts from No. 10 Penn State’s 33-24 win against Indiana.
• All that ails the Penn State offense wasn’t cured by facing an inferior Big Ten opponent. Quarterback Drew Allar and this receiving corps did little to inspire much confidence moving forward. Allar completed 20-of-31 passes for 210 yards and threw the first interception of his career — at a crucial time late in the fourth quarter. He did, however, make a play when it mattered, connecting with KeAndre Lambert-Smith on a 57-yard touchdown with under two minutes to play after Indiana tied the score at 24-24. It was Allar’s longest completion since a 72-yard TD pass to Lambert-Smith in the opener against West Virginia. He hadn’t thrown a completion more than 35 yards since.
Drew Allar threw it deep, and KLS made a play. 😏
No. 10 @PennStateFball retakes the lead.
📺: CBS pic.twitter.com/N66bGBCYHU
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 28, 2023
• What was up with the big touchdowns surrendered by the Penn State defense? This was jarring to see from the top-ranked defense in the country. The Hoosiers scored on touchdown receptions of 90 and 69 yards in the first half. In the fourth quarter, a 26-yard touchdown reception put the Hoosiers within three points with 10:54 left. On the 69-yard score in the first half, cornerback Johnny Dixon blitzed and there was no safety nearby. This was a massive meltdown from a defense that’s been tremendous.
• Keep in mind this is an Indiana team that is now 2-6 and might be the worst program in the Big Ten.
• Receiver Harrison Wallace III, who is expected to help a stagnant offense stretch the field, went to the locker room in the first quarter with the training staff. He appeared to be clutching his right collarbone and shoulder. He later returned to the sideline with his arm in a sling. Without Wallace, Malik McClain saw an uptick in reps. Wide receiver Dante Cephas was announced as a starter and had two receptions for 15 yards. The health of this receiving corps moving forward will be critical.
• Penn State’s run game found some traction in the second half, but neither Nick Singleton nor Kaytron Allen eclipsed 100 yards rushing — against one of the worst run defenses in the country that came into Saturday giving up an average of 174.4 yards per game. At times, both backs looked like they were ready to bust loose, but Allen’s longest rush went for 12 yards while Singleton’s went for 7. However, Singleton was active in the passing game, catching five passes for 31 yards. His longest went for 28.
• Allar attempted deep shots to Cephas and McClain. Both fell incomplete. With each shot play, it was noticeable how dialed in the Beaver Stadium crowd was to those moments. The fans are waiting for a big play.
• Penn State brought the T-formation back on the opening drive after not using it against Ohio State. Faced with third-and-2 at their 46, the Nittany Lions were stuffed for no gain. Penn State opted to punt, and the crowd was not pleased and let the home team hear it with a chorus of boos. Penn State did score out of the T-formation late in the second quarter when Singleton ran it in from 2 yards out. Again, why didn’t Penn State use this against Ohio State?
• The biggest momentum swings came courtesy of the Penn State defense and special teams. Jaylen Reed intercepted a pass right before the half, which the Nittany Lions turned into a field goal. Safety KJ Winston recovered a muffed Indiana punt in the first quarter. The moment gave life to a stadium that grew quiet after Indiana jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Penn State capitalized on the starting field position (the Indiana 32) and turned it into a 9-yard touchdown pass from Allar to tight end Khalil Dinkins.
• Daequan Hardy’s stock is rising. He had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown wiped away in the first quarter due to an illegal block in the back. His third-down sack in the third quarter proved to be a big moment. The Hoosiers missed a 37-yard field goal on the next play.
• Defensive end Chop Robinson, who exited the Ohio State game with an apparent head injury, did not play. Dani Dennis-Sutton started in his place. Left guard Vega Ioane started in place of JB Nelson. Nelson returned to the field in the second quarter and was promptly flagged for a holding penalty. Starting right tackle Caedan Wallace hobbled off the field in the first half and later spent time on the sideline riding the bike. Drew Shelton played in his place. Add in Wallace exiting with his arm in a sling, and the health of this team as it heads to Maryland could be an issue.
(Photo of Drew Allar: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)