The story for Penn State this season has been the same for just about every game: a strong defensive performance mixed with a varying degree of an underwhelming offensive one.
Heading into this game though, there was some hope that the Penn State offense would look a little different. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich was shown the door last Sunday, and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider and tight ends coach Ty Howle were taking over as co-offensive coordinators. Would the Penn State offense open things up?
Today was no different than what has become the normal for Penn State. The defense led the way, holding the Scarlet Knights out of the end zone and forcing three turnovers; two on Rutgers side of the field. It was a dominant performance from Manny Diaz’s group, with Chop Robinson, Johnny Dixon, and the duo of Abdul Carter and Coziah Izzard teaming up to take down Gavin Wimsatt three times.
Meanwhile, the offense inch-wormed its way down the field just enough, finding the end zone three times thanks to short yardage runs from Kaytron Allen and Beau Pribula.
To be clear, Rutgers is not the joke team it has been in the past. The Scarlet Knights are going bowl this season, and have one of the better defenses in the country. In reality, it was probably unrealistic to think that today would be a breakout performance for the offense. But regardless of the expectations, it was an uninspiring performance for a fan base that was certainly wishing for some juice.
To complicate matters, Drew Allar was injured in the third quarter. He picked up a first down with his legs but opted not to slide, which turned out to be a bad decision. He took a nasty shot to his right shoulder and face, and after staying in for one play, came out and went to the injury tent. He remerged a few minutes later, but was clearly in discomfort.
Pribula back at QB for PSU. Would be stunned to see Allar again today based on his mannerisms on the sideline. Struggling to raise that right arm.— Sean Fitz (@SeanFitzOn3) November 18, 2023
It remains be seen what Allar’s health will be for next week’s regular season finale in Detroit against Michigan State on Friday night, but shoulder injuries can be tricky and generally shouldn’t be messed with. With Penn State not playing for anything other than bowl positioning, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Nittany Lions health staff is cautious with Allar and sits him with the short week.
In relief, Beau Pribula played well this afternoon. He didn’t do the whole “throw the ball pass the line of scrimmage thing” but was impactful, carrying the ball for 71 yards on 8 carries. For a shaky Penn State offense in a tight ball game, the added rushing threat from the quarterback was helpful, as it seemed like Rutgers wasn’t completely ready for Pribula’s legs. They continued to crash hard on the running back, giving Pribula open running lanes to cause problems.
For whatever reason, these Penn State/Rutgers home matchups are never all that satisfying. It was 35-6 in 2017, 27-6 in 2019, 28-0 in 2021, and now again 27-6 in 2023, so credit to Greg Schiano for mucking things up and making it ugly. But given the frustrations this season has brought, today’s win was a tough watch for Penn State fans. Victories are victories and should always be celebrated, but this one certainly won’t be viewed as particularly sweet. But hey, that’s largely been the 2023 season.