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A Letdown Without A Loss

Penn State did not win the game in the way Vegas through they should, but they won nonetheless.

Sep 24, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (right) shakes hands with Central Michigan Chippewas head coach Jim McElwain (left) following the competition of the game at Beaver Stadium. Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Week 4 was certainly not kind to a number of ranked teams:

Those were the losses. There were also plenty of scares this week, with plenty of teams finding themselves in battles up and down the rankings. Notably, No. 1 Georgia allowed more points to Kent State than they had allowed all season, combined. No. 7 USC needed a late drive to escape Oregon State. No. 15 Oregon needed three scores in the span of five minutes to stave off Washington State. Nos. 8 Kentucky and 16 Ole Miss found themselves in battles against their Group of 5 opponents, coming away with one-score victories of their own.

Penn State, in its own letdown, came out firing on all cylinders early in the contest, but allowed Central Michigan to crawl right back in it to tie at 14 in the first half. The Nittany Lions would go up a touchdown, 21-14, into halftime. From there, Penn State continued to keep the Chippewas at arm’s length, stymying any promising Central Michigan drive with untimely turnovers. Or, if you’re a Penn State fan, the most timely of turnovers.

Yes, Central Michigan deserves credit for making this close early. But one would be remiss to not mention the apparent disinterest in playing a complete game after going up 14-0. The Nittany Lions saw the same drops, missed field goals, and the inability to make plays to put the game out of reach early.

Unlike the rest of college football, however, the Nittany Lions didn’t have to sweat out a victory. Penn State did enough to get the win, they did enough to build a big lead late, and they did enough to be one of the teams to still be undefeated after four weeks.

Penn State gets Northwestern next, and, after the first game of the year against Nebraska, it’s looking like any fear that the Wildcats would give the Nittany Lions trouble could be put to rest. It’s still a game against a Big Ten team, it’s still a game against a coach with a winning record against James Franklin, and, in the most strange of circumstances, it’s a game against a team that, whenever they lose all their non-conference games, as they have this season, they somehow find a way to win their division.

Northwester, in 2018, won their conference and season opener against a Big Ten opponent. Northwestern went 0-3 in the non-conference in 2018. Northwestern, when it was all said and done, would go on to win the West in 2018. The Wildcats might have the rest of the Big Ten exactly where they want them. The good news for Penn State? In both of their Big Ten West winning seasons, Northwestern lost to one of “the big four” in the East; it was Michigan in 2018, Michigan State in 2020, and, in 2022, we hope that team will be Penn State.

All jokes aside, the Nittany Lions have one more winnable contest before things get real in October. Soon enough, we’ll know what these Lions are made of.

Stats and Storylines

4 - The number of turnovers the Penn State defense created on Saturday. As the quality of opponents improves, this number should lower, but, if they are able to continue to generate turnovers moving forward, things will be a lot more manageable for the Nittany Lions.

111 - Rushing yards by Katryon Allen. As teams start to key in on Nicholas Singleton, and Central Michigan certainly did, having another running back with the same ability to punish defenses on the ground will be instrumental as the season rolls on. Penn State now has three games with over 100 yards on the ground.

Freshman moment - Drew Allar had a pedestrian 2-for-5 for 20 yard outing in mop up duty. It’s not surprising to see a pedestrian outing for the freshman, and shows that easing him into the college game may very well be the right decision by the coaching staff.

Bend but don’t suck - The Nittany Lions allowed 363 yards against Central Michigan, but the aforementioned turnovers killed any momentum the Chippewas could have gained from such a successful outing between the 20s. If the Lions can continue to allow yards without surrendering points, they should be in business for the rest of conference play.