We’re back again for yet another football season, and going into my eighth year personally of doing these position grades posts. I think you folks know the drill by now: I grade the positions based on a combination of eyes, stats, and feels. They will be too lenient or too harsh (or perhaps just right), depending on your own combination of eyes, stats, and feels. That’s the beauty of these types of posts, though, as we share differing perspectives on these things. Anyway, that’s enough talk from me, let’s grade last night’s season-opening dub under the lights:
‘A’ is for Allar, of course. For all the optimism surrounding Drew Allar’s potential and limited sample size from last season, it was fair to wonder how he would handle his very first start. If throwing for 325 yards and a hat trick of touchdowns wasn’t enough to quell any deep concerns, then I don’t know what will. His arm strength was on full display from the very beginning, particularly on his first TD strike to KeAndre Lambert-Smith, a throw that maybe only a few other college QB’s are able to make.
Drew’s accuracy was also spot-on, as well as his pocket awareness and ability to either step up to evade the oncoming rush (of which there was plenty last night from West Virginia) or roll out and find the open receiver. He also did a solid job of knowing when to just throw the ball away instead of taking the sack, and live to fight another down.
To be fair, Drew wasn’t perfect: He damn near threw an interception in the red zone on PSU’s final drive of the first half (which ended up being moot because of a missed field goal, more on that kicking disaster later, though...) and he threw a bit of a low ball for KLS on a slant route over the middle early in the second half, which if thrown right on target, could’ve seen KLS take it to the house. Yes, I’m nitpicking, but against the much tougher opponents on the schedule, there will be far less margin for error. Overall though, an absolutely impressive debut for Mr. Allar.
Shout-out to Beau Pribula as well, as the backup QB got some game action in the final minutes and even followed his blockers into the
Running Back: A-
Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen were both solid on the ground, with the handful of carries they got. Neither of them broke off an explosive run of 20 or more yards, which is why I’m sticking the ‘minus’ in front of the A-grade, but they consistently picked up chunks of yardage and Singleton found the end zone. Trey Potts even got some run in the final minutes and showed that he’s a nice luxury item to have as your No. 3 back.
Wide Receiver: A-
I was going to give this unit a full-fledged A-grade before those pair of drops on what should’ve been easy pitch-and-catch TD’s in the fourth quarter with PSU up 21-7 and looking to deliver the knockout punch in the red zone. Nonetheless, a tremendous night overall for this group, led of course by KeAndre “Big Play Dre” Lambert-Smith and his 100-plus yards receiving and pair of TD’s. Tre Wallace also looked impressive in his first start, being a very reliable set of hands and leading the team in receptions with seven of them for 72 yards. Also, how about Malik McClain? The Florida State transfer
Tight End: B
Like you, I was baffled at the near-complete lack of targets for Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren in the passing game. That being said, both tight ends did a solid job run blocking in the “diamond” package that Mike Yurcich has been throwing out since he was calling the offensive shots at Oklahoma State.
Offensive Line: B
On the one hand, run blocking was pretty good and Olu Fashanu held down the left side of the line pretty well, but the pass blocking at times left a little more to be desired when it came to picking up the blitzes that West Virginia threw from all sorts of angles. I will have a hard time erasing from my head, the play where Caedan Wallace blocked absolutely nobody as a linebacker came whizzing by to sack Allar head-on.
Defensive Line: C+
The defensive tackle spot got picked on a good amount in this one, as West Virginia’s much-hyped offensive line was able to create some lanes for CJ Donaldson or Garrett Greene to tote the rock and pick up some chunks of yardage. While the edge rushers were able to generate some pressure, it wasn’t as much as fans would’ve hoped. This could also be due to the fact that you rarely ever saw Greene drop back to throw, it was either a screen pass, or one quick read and then take off running. Then again, I lost count just how many times Chop Robinson appeared to be held while the refs did nothing. Good practice for Big Ten play, I suppose.
Curtis Jacobs had a solid outing, leading the team in tackles with ten of them, including a sack. Otherwise, it wasn’t the best night for the front seven as a whole. Abdul Carter especially was uncharacteristically struggling, garnering only one single tackle on the night. However, Carter’s lone tackle was arguably the most important, as he helped blow up a trick play from WVU on fourth down with the game still not completely out of reach early in the fourth quarter.
All-around solid game from this unit, and if it wasn’t for a brain fart of a blown coverage that led to a deep catch by WVU’s Devin Carter, the PSU defense would’ve been pitching a shutout well into the fourth quarter. Johnny Dixon had a pair of pass breakups while Kalen King made sure that any ball that Greene even dare throw in his direction was nowhere near catchable. Jaylen Reed also did an excellent job blowing up screen plays to make sure they didn’t turn into more than just a few yards, at most.
Special Teams: D
It looks like the placekicking job is Alex Felkins’ to lose at this point, as Sander Sahaydak missed on a pair of makable distances from 38 and 34 yards respectively, towards the end of the first half. Had he made even one of those kicks, PSU fans would’ve been breathing a little easier at halftime. Punting was also an adventure, as Riley Thompson’s first punt only went for 29 yards and gave WVU solid starting field position, he did however, send his other punt for 46 yards. Gabe Nwosu put all of his kickoffs into the back of the end zone for touchbacks and Kaden Saunders did a solid job of fielding punts in traffic, even if he never had a shot at returning one. The field goal kicking and punting is going to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth until there’s more consistency, though.
[NEW CATEGORY] Overall: B+
Overall, it was a solid opening performance for a team that was facing an insane amount of hype as soon as the clock hit double-zeros at the Rose Bowl eight months ago. While the defensive side of the ball may have felt underwhelming in terms of not forcing any turnovers and only a few sacks, the first team only allowed seven points. The fact that Singleton and Allen didn’t have to do too much in this game bodes well for the wear and tear on their bodies as we get deeper into the season, especially since the passing attack looked solid. Kicking and punting will certainly need to get cleaned up as well, especially with a critical road tilt at Illinois coming up in two weeks. That being said, it was a win you can feel good enough about for Week One.
[BONUS CATEGORY] Covering The Spread: A+
Good teams win, but great teams cover. I figured James Franklin was just going to instruct Pribula to take a couple of knees after getting a first and goal with less than 90 seconds to go and WVU all out of timeouts, but nope, he decided to make things interesting for all the degenerates out there. In this era of college football, style points matter.