Penn State Football: Observations From Blown Out Loss In Peach Bowl

Penn State Football: Observations From Blown Out Loss In Peach Bowl Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports

The Nittany Lions fans were looking forward to a chance at becoming the first program to win all the NY6 bowls.

Evidently, the players and staff did not feel the same way since they played as though they were sitting on their own couches watching the game happen.

Ultimately, Penn State lost 38-25 but the final score actually makes it look better than it was since the offense tacked on 8 when the game was already over.

In reality, this was a 38-17 blowout before Ole Miss bothered to stop playing and prioritize health.

Here are some observations for the loss:

NFL Draft Dooms Lions

The Nittany Lions were snake bitten by opt outs. It was probably the worst it’s ever affected the program.

Penn State went without their starting left tackle (Top-10 pick), their best edge rusher (Top-10 pick), their top corner (first-round pick) and their second-best corner (likely day two pick).

They clearly did not have the talent to make up for those losses and it showed. Consider other factors like Abdul Carter leaving early with an injury and the team, particularly the defense, essentially had none of their top-shelf talent.

Corners Non-Existent

It’s a tough loss to lose both of your starting corners. Still, you’d expect that a defense like Penn State has a pair of backups.

You’d assume wrong, however.

Maybe you were lucky enough to see 2022 four-star signee Cam Miller celebrate in the endzone as the receiver he covered dropped the ball while he was nearby. It was his best of the game.

Otherwise, you would have just been watching Miller so you knew where the ball was going to be thrown.

The stats aren’t readily available yet, but Ole Miss completed 26 passes for 394 yards. If I had to guess, about 18 of the completions were into Miller’s coverage for about 250 of those yards. It was perhaps the worst performance by a corner I’ve ever seen at Penn State, which made his celebrating a drop in between all that more memorable.

Cam Miller played the entire game and wasn’t replaced. If this is truly the best Penn State has to offer at the position and they don’t bring in any transfers, it looks like it will be a long year in 2024 of watching opposing QBs throw at him constantly for Penn State fans.

Receivers Remain Problem

It’s common knowledge at this point that Penn State has had no positives at the receiver position in 2023. KeAndre Lambert-Smith had a solid season and no one else did enough to even be worth mentioning.

Well, the Nittany Lions have been swinging at the transfer portal options and have so far struck out on every single one of them.

That’s not good news for Penn State. In this game, there was a total of only SEVEN completions to receivers for 92 yards. Four of those (69 yards) came in garbage time after the game was already over. None came in the first half.

Oh, and without registering any catches, Omari Evans got his name in the game notes by commiting an OPI, though once could argue that it prevented an interception (see the next section for more on that).

It was an abysmal day that only highlighted a problem that has been present all season and does not seem to have any fix incoming that will improve things for next season.

Wonder Boy Not So Wonderous

Drew Allar was a five-star quarterback, but once again he shriveled and disappeared in a big game.

Allar not only completed a putrid 19 out of 39 attempts, but he also heaved up an interception that there was absolutely no reason for him to have thrown and lost a fumble.

He did not read the field and well over half of his throws went toward double, triple or even quadruple coverage. Since there’s only 11 defenders and four of them are pass rushers, they certainly weren’t double teaming four guys every play. That means that Allar was clearly not reading the defense and throwing it to the guy with the best chance to make the catch.

He routinely missed open receivers by throwing behind them and missed multiple screens by throwing 4 feet over the heads of his running backs.

There was even a play where, on 3rd and 4, motion on the bottom of the field lead to KLS taking both defenders and another receiver opening up toward the sideline with no defender anywhere near him right at the start of the play. Allar didn’t even look. He threw a 3-yard completion to the clogged up center of the field and Penn State punted the ball away.

Meanwhile Beau Pribula got one chance to throw on a trick play and read the field beautifully, turning away from the covered Allar and heaving a 48-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Singleton.

It was an absolutely pitiful performance and the receivers will get a ton of blame for the previous discourse around the position. That said, receivers can’t do much if their quarterback is unable to read the field or make simple throws.

Unless Allar makes improvements in camp, James Franklin cannot afford to waste the next three years sticking with one quarterback who is holding the team back because he’s “earned it”. If no improvement is seen, there needs to be a new option under center.

Coaching Hot Seat

Another absolutely brutal loss under James Franklin against a top-ranked team in a critical game.

Cue up the graphics, he is now 6-29 against Top-15 teams and he just had a team that was supposedly a top-10 one get blown out on national TV.

He’s hired two great DC’s that have moved to become head coaches, but is an offensive-minded coach who has just completed his 10th year with the program. If what you’ve got to write home about is you hired someone else and then entirely stepped back and let them be successful by your lack of intervention, that’s probably not great.

Only one time (when he had NFL starters like Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin, Miles Sanders, etc.) did his team have an offense that wasn’t an absolute dumpster fire.

He’s on his sixth OC hire and there’s maybe one in that list that had a halfway decent offense. When every coach you hire to work with you on your end of the ball is bad, perhaps the coaches being hired aren’t the issue anymore.

James Franklin has build a culture, but that culture has about one or two inspiring wins in 10 years. It recruits blue-chip prospects and underwhelms year after year. It fostered a group of guys who wanted to be on the sideline today to watch their unprepared teammates get their teeth kicked in for 60 minutes because the staff (now with no coordinators) had none of them prepared and the practice reps went to guys who didn’t play.

What about any of this leads to the belief that James Franklin shouldn’t be on the hot seat?

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