NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Penn State Football: 2 Things Nittany Lions Must Fix vs. Northwestern

For the second time this season, I come to you after a dominating victory by Penn State Football and point out very nitpicky items for Penn State to address before the following week.

While this exercise seems overly critical of a team that dominated Iowa in all facets of the game Saturday, if Penn State is to reach the lofty expectations that were set for the Nittany Lions in 2023, not only to win games you are supposed to win and compete with Ohio State and Michigan, but truly challenge Ohio State and Michigan for both a Big Ten championship and a spot in the college football playoff, then Penn State cannot be satisfied with great performances and must look to get better each week.

Two Things Penn State Football Must Improve vs. Northwestern

Special teams miscues

Penn State’s special teams has been somewhat hit or miss this season.

In the punt return game, Kaden Saunders has been growing into his role and becoming more confident every week.

Head coach James Franklin went so far to say that Saunders was “underappreciated” in his role as punt returner at his weekly press conference last week.

Franklin on Kaden Saunders: Starting to “build the confidence and acquire the strength” to “play the way we need him to play”. The way he is catching the ball as a PR is “underappreciated”. Showed signs in games and practice that his “role will continue to grow”.

— Penn State FB Thoughts (@PSU_FB_Thoughts) September 19, 2023

This week, against one of the better punters in college football and in the rain, Saunders struggled a bit in this role.

On one Iowa punt, Saunders fumbled the ball, but was able to jump back on it before a defender got to the ball, avoiding Penn State’s first turnover of the year. On the day, Saunders returned 3 punts for -3 yards with a long of just five yards and the fumble that he recovered.

Luckily for Penn State, none of the issues were disastrous, but definitely something that Penn State will want to clean up before next week and tighter matchups later in the season.

On the other hand, Penn State also saw kicker Alex Felkins with Penn State’s second missed field goal since week one against West Virginia as Felkins pushed a 43-yard attempt wide left in the fourth quarter.

Since the two missed kicks in the first half of the matchup against West Virginia, Penn State has only had one other miss, a 52-yarder that was blocked against Illinois last week. Felkins finished the day one for two with a 46-yarder in the first quarter of the game against Iowa to give Penn State a 3-0 lead.

Heading into the meat of the schedule, Penn State Football will want to feel a little more confident on those mid to long range kicks for closer games.


Drew Allar, Penn State Football
Drew Allar #15 of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Offense has to start faster

By the end of the night Saturday, Penn State Football continued the longest streak in the nation by scoring over 30 points against a very good Iowa Hawkeyes defense.

However, early in the first half, it did not look like the game would be going this direction.

It may be overly critical to say, but Penn State’s offense has started slow over the past two weeks. In the past two games, Penn State has run 3 plays and gained one yard on each of its opening drives in the first half. In both games against Illinois and Iowa, Penn State took until drive four to get into the endzone.

While the offense was able to get more comfortable this week against Iowa later in the game, the score was still 3-0 in favor of the Nittany Lions 20 minutes into the game.

Against Illinois the previous week, Penn State held only a 6-0 lead against the Illini until 11 minutes left in the second quarter. Neither of Penn State’s opening drives against Iowa or Illinois lasted more than two minutes or more than three plays.

If Penn State’s defense is tested early on the first drive by a good opponent, a short first drive could start to break what has been an excellent defense by gassing the defense early and forcing Penn State to turn to backups and rotational players before Manny Diaz would like.

While starting slow may have worked against teams with average or below average offenses so far this season, Penn State cannot expect to stay ahead of Michigan or Ohio State if the offense is not able to score until partway through the second quarter.

Penn State must find a way to get the offense more comfortable in the first drive of the game and in the first quarter if the Nittany Lions want to have a shot at beating those top two teams in the division.

Penn State’s starters got plenty of rest in the fourth quarter of this week’s White Out win and should be fresh to head to Northwestern.

With another 11 am local kick, Penn State has to find a way to bring the energy and make plays early on to avoid sleepwalking into a tight game in a game where the Nittany Lions should be easily favored by double digits.

Drew Allar, Penn State Football
Support Penn State Football QB Drew Allar directly, by purchasing his officially licensed NIL jersey.

MORE: How James Franklin channeled REVENGE in Penn State’s Throttling of Iowa

A note to our readers; If you make a purchase through one of our affiliate links, we may receive a commission
Robert Casturo