Kaytron Allen, Dominant Secondary Lead Penn State Football Past Central Michigan | Takeaways
No. 14 Penn State Football ran past Central Michigan, surviving an early slumber, to remain unbeaten ahead of Big Ten Play resuming.
Not every win is created equal, and No. 14 Penn State Football on Saturday afternoon eventually ran past Central Michigan, after briefly falling flat, one week removed from the emotional high of knocking off Auburn in SEC country.
The Nittany Lions‘ secondary made life miserable for the Chippewas’ receivers, forcing four turnovers, as freshman running back Kaytron Allen proved a worthy backfield complement to Nick Singleton in PSU’s backfield.
In a game that was more competitive than some would have expected, Penn State Football outlasted Central Michigan, 33-14.
Here are 5 key takeaways from Penn State Football’s win over Central Michigan
Kaytron Allen Has Breakout Game
All the talk the past two weeks has been about Nick Singleton, and rightfully so, as he rushed for over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns in that span.
However, it is the other freshman running back who had been quietly putting together a solid season without the flash.
That changed on Saturday afternoon, as Allen rushed for 111 yards on 13 carries and 1 touchdown. That was good for 8.5 yards per carry, but this isn’t something entirely new for Allen.
While Singleton may be the big play running back, Allen has shown that he can get consistent yards on the ground even when it doesn’t look like anything is there. Allen averaged 3.9 yards per carry against Purdue, 3.8 against Ohio, and 5.8 against Auburn. Against the Chippewas he had his longest run of the season making some beautiful cuts down the sideline before being tracked down after 37 yards.
While most Penn State Football fans are in awe of what Singleton has done this season, it could be argued that Allen is just as important in that backfield.
Singleton got 12 carries against Central Michigan but was only able to get 42 yards, 21 of which came on one play.
Having a power back like Allen is a good counterpunch for the Nittany Lions and a change of pace for when Singleton isn’t having an explosive game. We saw it last week against Auburn with a cutback touchdown at the goal line, but Allen has looked to have the edge in vision over Singleton through the first 4 weeks.
Singleton has been the faster and more explosive back whereas Allen seems more patient and willing to take a solid short gain if the big play isn’t there.
The running back room is quickly turning into a strength on this team and might be the 2nd best position for the Nittany Lions behind their secondary.
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Secondary continues to force turnovers
This has become arguably the strongest position group of this team.
Penn State Football once again forced 4 turnovers this week with the secondary garnering 2 interceptions and one strip.
Both interceptions by Johnny Dixon and Zakee Wheatly showed what an aggressive Manny Diaz defense is supposed to look like.
While Ji’ayir Brown and Keaton Ellis may have started the season as firmly in the starting role at safety, Zakee Wheatly has made a name for himself these first 4 games.
Wheatly garnered 5 tackles on Saturday in addition to his interception and now has 2 interceptions and forced fumble on the season. The freshman just seems to have a nose for the football and the ability to force turnovers and create short fields has been a stark difference to last year’s team.
It isn’t just the turnovers, this secondary keeps finding ways to break up passes on a consistent basis. Against Central Michigan cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr had 3 pass deflections, Kobe King had 4, and Johnny Dixon had 3.
The Nittany Lions are 8 deep in the secondary with talent and have been able to blitz like Manny Diaz prefers because they know they are so strong on the back end in man coverage.
Sean Clifford looks inconsistent
Looking at the stat sheet it may look like Sean Clifford had a solid game.
After all, he did go 22-for-34 passing for 217 yards with 3 passing and 1 rushing touchdown.
However, Clifford just looked off for a good majority of the game. It is a sinking feeling for a lot of Penn State fans as they feel like the inconsistent Clifford of old is still showing up in year 6.
The day started with a great 9-play 59-yard touchdown drive where he went 3-for-3 passing for 47 yards and a touchdown. After a quick interception by the defense and starting at the Chippewas 15, Clifford was able to find Brenton Strange for the 4-yard touchdown.
It seemed after those quick scores that everything else was a struggle. There were good throws mixed in, but often the accuracy just seemed a bit off and some of that was even hidden by the great catching ability of both Mitchell Tinsley and Parker Washington.
While Penn State Football came away with the 19-point victory many of those scores were done quickly after getting a short field and the offense never really established a solid long drive with the longest drive being the opening one.
If there was a game for Clifford to be off it is of course better for it to be against Central Michigan than a Big Ten opponent but this will certainly be something to monitor as we head into next week’s matchup with Northwestern.
Team Started Fast, but Stalled
There are many who worry about how a team handles an emotional win, especially the type of blowout we saw last week at Auburn.
Penn State Football seemed to be in good shape early, getting a defensive stop, driving 59 yards for a touchdown, and then a turnover which quickly turned into another TD.
It was looking like it was going to be another big win for the Nittany Lions as they had a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
That is where the offense seemed to have stalled and the defense showed some weakness. The Chippewas tied the game at 14 with midway through the 2nd quarter Penn State was able to get another touchdown before the half thanks to a short field provided by both a Barney Amor punt pinned inside the 5 and 30+ yard Parker Washington punt return.
However, in the second half they never seemed to really explode offensively and dominate like we saw in Auburn last week. It may have just been that the Nittany Lions got in cruise control and once went up early and didn’t feel the need to push the envelope in the second half.
They will get another shot next week to prove they can dominate bad opponents when a struggling Northwestern team comes to Beaver Stadium.
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Punting remains strength, Kicking an uncertainty
The special teams unit has been a mixed bag this season.
Barney Amor continues to be an absolute menace at the punter position this week downing 3 of his 4 punts inside the 6-yard line. One of which was muffed and gave the Nittany Lions the ball at the 4-yard line and the other forced the Chippewas offense to be conservative leading to a Penn State TD before half.
The kicking has been a little more of a question mark. After missing an extra point and field goal against Ohio, Pinegar responded with a solid game against Auburn in which he went 2-2 on FG including a 48 yarder.
This week he had an extra point blocked which wasn’t his fault, and later missed what should have been an easy 38 yarder. Freshman placekicker Sander Sahaydak also missed a field goal in this game although it was a 56 yarder at the end of the 1st half.
While it didn’t end up having a huge impact in this game, having Pinegar figure things out will be beneficial for the Nittany Lions as they head into conference play.