Let me run through a scenario Penn State fans are far too familiar with.
The Nittany Lions get the ball in good field position, and surely, they’ll start a promising drive that ends with points on the board. Then this happens:
1st & 10 - handoff, running back is tackled in the backfield
2nd & 12 - Choose your own (mis)adventure - short gain, incomplete pass, sack, holding penalty
3rd & long - incomplete pass
4th & long - punt
It’s a scenario that has killed drives, often after just three plays, and far too often during the past several years. Why am I bringing this up? Becuae one key stat helps explain the value of today’s MVP - true freshman running back Kayton Allen has not had a negative run after four games.
Allen’s ability to take the handoff, diagnose the position of the defenders in front of him, then make a decisive cut has shown ability far beyond his experience level. He has the patience and mentality that you may not find with upperclassman running backs - heck, you may not find the vision and patience he possess in some NFL running backs.
This ability helped Allen to take control of the offense on Saturday. The offense got off to a hot start, with two touchdowns on two possessions. Then things cooled. Central Michigan switched to a cover-0 defense, making things more complicated for the offense. They were not able to take advantage of no deep safety help with explosive plays, mostly because of a steady trickle of small mistakes - a missed pass here, a missed block here, a drop here just kept killing drives.
Fortunately, they were able to turn to Allen to gain control once Central Michigan climbed back to tie the game 14-14. With the score gridlocked before halftime, Allen had runs of 8 and 11, before a 14-yard touchdown burst put Penn State ahead for good. He nearly helped set up another score shortly into the second half, but a holding penalty negated a 35-yard run.
No matter. He came back with a 37-yard run on the last play of the third quarter. A few plays later, Sean Clifford would find Harrison Wallace III in the end zone to expand the lead. The next drive involved Allen picking up chunks of yards while helping wind down the clock.
All it took was 13 carries on the day for Allen to pick up 111 rushing yards and a touchdown - good for 8.5 yards per carry on the day.
TE Brenton Strange - I had thought about making Strange the MVP before Allen’s commanding second half performance. Strange once again was a huge part of the offense, catching five passes for 42 yards and getting into the end zone twice.
P Barney Amor - How crazy good has Amor been during the first four games? Not only does he have a booming leg to flip field position, he also has uncanny precision to pin the opposing offense very deep whenever given a shorter field. He averaged 44.5 yards per punt and had three that dropped within the seven yard line.
CB Kalen King - King has been overshadowed by a trememndous start from Joey Porter Jr., as well as preventing quarterbacks from throwing his direction. Central Michigan tried to attack his side however, and King responded with four pass breakups, a forced fumble and recovery, as well as four tackles.
DT P.J. Mustipher - Mustipher looks much more healthy and comfortable back in the teeth of the Penn State defense. He had his best game since returning from the injury that ended his 2021 season, collecting ateam-high six tackles and impacting plays all afternoon.