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30 Random Thoughts on Penn State’s Victory Over Indiana

“Random” musings on the weekend that was against the Hoosiers

Nov 5, 2022; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) runs the ball past Indiana Hoosiers linebacker Dasan McCullough (0) during the second half at Memorial Stadium. Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

On a blustery afternoon in Bloomington, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Indiana Hoosiers engaged in a contest of American football. The Nittany Lions emerged victorious, 45-14. I have several thoughts, which are set forth “randomly” below.

  1. A few readers over the season have noted that these posts are far more enjoyable after a win than a loss. I get that, although the real conundrum is that it’s much easier to write after a loss than a win.
  2. That goes double for a win of this magnitude. It was dominant and mostly uncompetitive.
  3. Honestly, I’m sure that suits James Franklin just fine. Suits me just fine, too. I’ll trade a harder to write post over an ugly and unpleasant loss that makes me type fast.
  4. This team feels like it’s rounding into the same general form as the 2019 Cotton Bowl team, although the timing is a bit different. That squad climbed into the top 5 before stumbling in November to a good Minnesota team and College Football Playoff-bound Ohio State.
  5. This year, the losses came earlier - October 15 to Michigan and October 29 to the Buckeyes. But going chalk in November puts Penn State in the same space - a very good (but not great) team that has double digit regular season wins and awaits a potential bid to the New Year’s Six.
  6. The similarities go beyond the record and, of course, the quarterback. Both the 2019 and 2022 teams are leaning heavily on emerging running backs and the season moves forward, with offensive lines starting to come together to give the team a consistency to the offense that had previously been mostly boom or bust.
  7. Last weekend against Indiana gave me that sense. Penn State was missing both starting tackles (Olu Fashanu and Caedan Wallace) and a starting guard (Landon Tengwall), and lost another guard to injury during the game (Hunter Nourzad). Despite that, they dominated the Hoosiers at the point of attack. The two freshmen backs rushed for 159 combined yards and Sean Clifford was sacked just once.
  8. The level of competition was unimpressive, but no one would have anticipated that kind of response one year ago. Last year, Penn State struggled to run the ball against Villanova.
  9. It’s a testament to the work done by Phil Trautwein to see a patchwork line step in and more than hold its own.
  10. There are few things more enjoyable as a football fan than seeing your team’s running backs find space, break into the open field, and then lower a shoulder into a defender for an extra couple of yards.
  11. The Sean Clifford discourse is played out. He’s not giving up his job the rest of the year and he more or less played acceptable football on Saturday. The coaches trust him to make the calls at the line, get everyone set in the right position, and make more good decisions than not with the ball and with his feet.
  12. They’re obviously willing to trade those positives for the weird execution hiccups that have resulted in first quarter interceptions or missed open receivers.
  13. Drew Allar looked great in extended time and I was glad to see him operate the offense in different situations. His arm talent is just on a completely different level than Clifford, and, for that matter, most FBS quarterbacks. When he’s comfortable, he makes plays that are only available because of his size and natural ability.
  14. I’m pretty sure the trainers are still trying to pull the ball out of Harrison Wallace’s chest after Allar drilled him for his first touchdown of the game.
  15. Bringing Allar up to speed slowly and getting him to harness all of that talent and potential is a luxury both Franklin and Yurcich believe they are afforded by virtue of Sean Clifford’s existence. That’s not a choice most of Nittany Lions Twitter would make, but I can’t say it’s categorically wrong.
  16. Of course, if Penn State loses this coming weekend to Maryland because of poor quarterback play, my opinion will dramatically turn.
  17. If Theo Johnson makes that catch at the end of the half and walks into the end zone, is anyone complaining about Clifford’s performance?
  18. That drop was more Tony Johnson than Theo. Seriously, it made zero sense in context - uncontested by a defensive back, perfect throw, low stress stadium environment. How do you drop that?
  19. Between that drop and the play to the sideline where he almost got in, I’m sure he was thrilled when he finally scored in the fourth quarter.
  20. The defense had great performances all over the field and obviously the defensive line was (finally) dominant. The guy who got my attention enough to make me do a double take at the depth chart, though, was Dom DeLuca. That kid was flying all over the field and sticking his nose in where you wouldn’t have expected it.
  21. DeLuca involved himself in a bunch of plays, but the one that stood out for me was on an Indiana pass play where the receiver was moving laterally. DeLuca sprinted in and took on a block, which ultimately pushed the receiver further to the sideline, where another defender cleaned things up.
  22. It’s the little things that you’re able to enjoy in a game like this one.
  23. Honest to God, I have no idea how Brenton Strange caught that ball around the Indiana defender’s head.
  24. I also have no idea how Mitchell Tinsley came up with the contested catch in the middle of the field.
  25. Either way, it’s nice to see Clifford trusting his receivers and the receivers rewarding that trust by fighting for the ball and making big plays.
  26. Last year, heartbroken Penn State came out after the Iowa debacle and let itself collapse into a heap against a bad Illinois team. Nine overtimes later, the season was down the drain and Penn State was a laughing stock.
  27. I don’t know what they’ve done differently, but Franklin deserves credit for keeping this team focused on the task at hand. The Ohio State loss hurt, but it didn’t have to end a season.
  28. Maryland can be dangerous, but Penn State is a better football team. Keep your eyes on the prize.
  29. Can we bookend Sean Clifford’s starting career with double digit wins? Let’s find out.
  30. We are...