COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The Drew Allar that Penn State and James Franklin and Mike Yurcich thought they were getting when the five-star QB from Medina, Ohio, first arrived on campus last January came out of his shell in a big way on Saturday — 201 miles from Beaver Stadium, in the D.C. suburbs, of all places.

Allar threw four TD passes, ran four times for 39 yards, showed pose and confidence, and dropped dime after dime against a Maryland defense that decided that man-to-man coverage sans safeties was a good idea.

It was not. Steady Eddie is now Mr. Smooth. At least for a few more days. “It’s really smooth, is kind of how I describe it,” Allar said after Penn State’s convincing 51-15 victory. “Once you find that rhythm, it’s really hard to break it. I just really need to stay in the moment and stay calm.”

Penn State upped its record to 8-and-Ohio State, in advance of its massive meeting on Saturday with unbeaten and unrepentant Michigan at high noon in Beaver Stadium. Meanwhile, after embarrassing his former employer (again), Penn State head coach James Franklin spent his time in the Big Ten’s smallest media room (closet?) lamenting — again — that his team, now 19-3 since the start of the 2022 season, isn’t appreciated enough.

(The three losses? Michigan, Ohio State and Ohio State.)

It is a refrain we’ve heard a lot lately. During the season, Franklin meets three times a week with the media, so I’ve heard this spiel so much that I feel a bit like his therapist. Saturday’s post-game session will be a biggie. Either way, we may need a couch.

Which brings us to this week’s All-22, a blend of Maryland and Michigan with a modicum of stats and silliness, and a finish replete with a procession of Blue Band buses. (If you are a spy reading this from Ann Arbor, items 14, 19, 20 and 21 are specifically about the Wolverines.)

1. Happy not happy. Franklin was happy with the lopsided win, but unhappy that fans — and the beat reporters that cover the team — don’t seem so happy. It’s been an ongoing theme of 2023. Penn State is 8-1 and has an elite defense (see No. 16). But…there’s Ohio State and Michigan (see No. 21). Saturday’s Michigan game will provide some clarity. Maybe.

1a. A snippet of what Franklin said post-game, which left a lot of fans riled up (my above Tweet of his comments blew up): “We got a win last week (33-24 over Indiana), built on it, got better. We got better this week. That’s something that’s really important.  We’ve won a decent amount. Not as much as everyone wants. I get that. But, I also think we’ve taken winning for granted a little bit. We win games and you come into the press conference and it doesn’t necessarily feel like that.”

2. Franklin is 8-2 vs. Maryland, where he coached twice and was head coach-in-waiting before he left for Vanderbilt. Overall, Penn State is 43-3-1 (losses in 1961, 2014 and 2020) vs. Maryland. Under Franklin, Penn State regularly beats the Terrapins like a drum on the road, i.e.:

2023 — W, 51-15
2021 — W, 31-14
2019 — W, 59-0
2017 — W, 66-3
2015 — W, 31-30 (Balt.)
Overall — 5-0, 238-62

2a. Maryland and Penn State meet three times in the next five years: at Beaver Stadium (2024, 2027) and SECU Stadium (2026).

Drew Allar: “I just really need to stay in the moment and stay calm.”

3. Allar hit it big on Saturday, again (Dante Cephas), again (Theo Johnson), again (Tyler Warren) and again (Cephas). It was the Penn State quarterback’s best performance of the year, and that it came on the road meant more. Here are his cumulative stats from his first three road games at PSU compared to what he did against the Terps on Saturday:

3a. vs. Illinois, Northwestern and Ohio State
52 of 108, 588 yards (48.1%), long of 35,
2 TDs, 0 int., .02 yards per carry

3b. vs. Maryland
25 of 34, 240 yards (73.5%), long of 38,
4 TDs, 0 int., 9.8 yards per carry

4. Cephas hit it big on Saturday, with two graceful TD grabs, with six receptions for 53 yards. A first-season transfer from Kent State (where he caught 144 passes), he entered the game with only 11 catches in Penn State’s first eight games, for 146 yards and no TDs. We should have seen this coming, though. On the road against the Terps in 2021 with Kent State, he had 10 receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown.

4a. Cephas stepped in the void left by the absence of wide receiver Trey Wallace, who left the Indiana game early last week and emerged with his right arm in a sling. It was his second significant injury of an unfortunate 2023 for him. No word when — or if, TBH — he will return.

5. KeAndre Lambert-Smith hit it big on Saturday, with eight catches for 95 yards. He also was a hit after the game, when he shot a selfie with a trio of Penn State cheerleaders (see below).

6. Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa — clearly the best quarterback Penn State has faced in 2023, with Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy on deck — completed 17 consecutive passes against Penn State, but…it was not nearly enough. Why?
Penn State held the Terps to negative 49 yards rushing, including sacks. Without sacks, they still had minus 2 yards rushing. (The Penn State record: negative 107 yards by Syracuse against the vaunted 1947 PSU defense.)
Penn State had 12 tackles for a loss, including 6 sacks.
Maryland lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions.
Over the course of four plays in the fourth quarter, Maryland turned the ball over three times — an interception by Penn State LB Dom DeLuca, a forced fumble by LB Tony Rojas and an interception by Rojas. PSU turned those three miscues into 13 points.

7. Penn State’s D did all that without edge Chop Robinson, who did not play. Robinson, who is from Gaithersburg, Maryland, left the Ohio State game with an injury and has not played since. Robinson was listed as “out” on the Big Ten-sanctioned Penn State participation report before the game, and was not on the official PSU travel roster. Nonetheless, he dressed in near-full gear and went through limited warmups. He looked a bit distraught prior to the game, when he shook hands with nearly every teammate.

8. The double deans of the Penn State football beat, Neil Rudel and Rich Scarcella, were my seatmates in the SECU Stadium press box. Still an education covering a game with them. Rudel, of The Mirror in Altoona, started covering Penn State football as an undergrad on The Daily Collegian at Penn State in the latter 1970s. He’s been at it longer than anyone. Scarcella, of the Reading Eagle and a host of other outlets, is also a TDC alum and has been on the beat for more consecutive seasons than anyone. They carry a heavy and prominent load on a beat that can exceed 75 or more — the largest in the Big Ten — asking pointed questions of Franklin and setting high standards for professionalism, accuracy and historical context.

9. The above tweet says 94-0. It was accurate at the time. Later in the quarter, Penn State’s Alex Felkins made a 30-yard field goal, extending Penn State’s amazing third-quarter scoring dominance in 2023 to 97-0.

10. Kaytron Allen is clearly Penn State’s RB1 these days. Against the Terps, he had 14 carries for 91 yards and a TD, with a long of 20. Nick Singleton, who rushed for 1,061 yards in 2022, had eight carries for only 20 yards, with a long of 6 yards, against Maryland. Allen has had Penn State’s three biggest rushing games of 2023 — 103 yards vs. Delaware, 91 vs. Maryland and 81 vs. Indiana. A comparison:

Allen — 119 carries, 573 yards, 4.8 ave.
Singleton — 121 carries, 480 yards, 4.0 ave.

11. Memo to: Mike Yurcich
Cc: Tommy Stevens, Will Levis and Christian Veilleux
Re: The Beau Package

12. 51-15 — that’s a reverse or mirror score. It’s rare for PSU…it only happens once every 197 games or so. As veteran journalist Greg Guise pointed out to me, Penn State was ahead of Maryland 31-13 on its way to winning by a flipped score. The final score as a mirror image has happened only seven times in the 1,377-game history of Penn State football — all Nittany Lion victories.
2023 — Penn State 51, Maryland 15
2016 —Penn State 41, Iowa 14
2005 — Penn State 42, Cincinnati 24
1998 — Penn State 31, Purdue 13
1993 — Penn State 31, Tenn. 13 (Citrus)
1974 — Penn State 21, West Virginia 12
1959 — Penn State 21, Boston U. 12

13. Penn State linebacking great NaVorro Bowman is a Terp. For now. A Maryland native, Bowman is a defensive analyst for the Terrapins. I bumped into him pre-game, as he was walking laps around the perimeter of the playing field. He was quite gracious. Bowman was All-Big Ten at Penn State and is an esteemed member of the Nittany Lions’ Double Sticks Club (No. 11) He had a terrific, yet underrated NFL career. He was a four-time All-Pro with the 49ers in a career that was cut short by an Achilles tear.

14. More 11…and billboard-worthy: Linebacker Abdul Carter has emerged from an early-season slumber. Against the Terps, he had a team-high six tackles, a pass breakup and a solo sack. He is starting to play with the aggressiveness that was his hallmark as a freshman in 2022. You’ve no doubt seen the billboard — it’s hard not to! — he’s on by the Sheetz near the Dauphin Narrows heading south on Route 322 from State College to Harrisburg (as I did while driving to the game on Saturday morning).

14a. Franklin on Carter: “Abdul, as we all know, he’s an explosive guy. He came on the scene last year, kind of out of nowhere, and became the buzz and talk of the season, specifically the defensive side of the ball. And for him to play within the constraints of our defense allows us to be really successful.”

15. Penn State’s defense sits at or near the top in several key statistical categories nationally. Nine games into the 2023 season, Michigan is ranked No. 1 in total defense (231.4 yards per game), just ahead of Penn State (234.2). PSU’s offensive propensity for long drives serves it in good stead. And the Nittany Lions have a few players ranked nationally in the top 20. Here’s a breakdown:

1st — Fewest passes intercepted (1), fewest turnovers lost (4), turnover margin (+1.78 pg)
3rd — Fourth-down conversions (84.2%), time of possession (33:59), offensive plays (75.7 pg)
6th — Red zone offense (score 95.7% of the time)

1st — Rushing defense (60.3 ypg), team sacks (4.22 pg), team tackles for a loss (8.4 pg), turnovers gained (20)
2nd — Total defense (234.2 ypg), fewest first downs (188; Michigan is No. 1, with 102), fumble recoveries (10)
7th — Fewest offensive plays allowed (58.6 pg)

1st — Daequan Hardy, punt return TDs (2)
8th — Curtis Jacobs and Kevin Winston, fumble recoveries (2)
11th — Passes defended, Hardy (1/3 per game)
15th —Singleton, kickoff returns (25.3 per return)
20th — Points scored, Felkins, 78

17. UMass notwithstanding, Penn State’s strength of schedule for 2023 is currently the fifth-toughest in college football (winning percentage of 65%), counting all past and future opponents for this season, according to the NCAA. True. Michigan’s schedule ranks No. 31 (59.6%). But when it comes to the remainder of the regular season only, Michigan ranks No. 2, with its next three foes owning a combined winning percentage of 81.5% — Penn State is 8-1, Maryland is 5-4 and Ohio State is 9-0. 

18. Monday at noon is the start of a new press conference era for Franklin. During his entire 10-year tenure at Penn State, the head coach’s formal in-season mid-week press conference, held in the Beaver Stadium media room, had been at 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays. But, piqued by the intense attention Penn State’s 20-12 loss at Ohio State (justifiably) received from fans and media in the days after the defeat, Franklin changed the date on the fly to Monday.

18a. Decades ago, before the press conference was shifted to Tuesdays, Joe Paterno held his mid-week press conference on Wednesdays in a small board room at Toftrees, immediately following the State College Quarterback Club meeting — at which Paterno was a weekly guest. I first started attending in 1979, and the gathering was so small it was held around a conference table, with Joe doing TV interviews outdoors afterwards. For big games, a few reporters — such Gordon White of the New York Times, a Paterno pal —  would call in via speakerphone. Usually there were 6-to-8 media types there.

19. The Penn State-Michigan game kicks off at noon at Beaver Stadium. FOX is broadcasting nationally, in its coveted noon slot, which usually does blockbuster ratings. Expect Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt — not the biggest fans of Penn State or Franklin this season — on the call.

19a. The FOX Big Noon Kickoff Show will be broadcasting live from the stadium on Saturday. It will be very interesting to see who Urban Meyer picks to win this game. (My pick: He picks Michigan, a double troll.) While head coach at THE Ohio State, Meyer was 7-0 vs. Michigan — a fact celebrated on the logo of his eponymous restaurant in Dublin, Ohio — and 4-0 vs. Jim Harbaugh, and 6-1 vs. Penn State and James Franklin.

20. Franklin vs. Michigan, all-time: 3-6
vs. Harbaugh: 3-5
Last 2 meetings: 0-2 (21-17, H, 2021; 41-17, A, 2022)
At Beaver Stadium: 2-2
vs. Michigan and Ohio State: 4-15
vs. Michigan and Ohio State since 2020: 1-7

21. Round-robin play continues among the leaders in the Big Ten East. As it stands, Ohio State has the conference’s definitive lead in securing a berth in the final four-team College Football Playoff, according to ESPN. ESPN’s predictions assume, I assume: It’s a bit of a fait accompli that the Big Ten East champ beats the West champ. Ohio State beats Michigan. And Penn State loses to Michigan.

22. Follow those Blue Band buses! After post-game interviews, my colleague Ben Jones and I dashed to my car in a parking garage on the University of Maryland campus. As we exited, we were held up for a large procession of Blue Band buses. Lucky us. We dodged in right behind them — there had to be at least 15 of ’em — as they ran interference for us through the mess that moved at a terrapin’s pace through campus, College Park and the D.C. suburb environs. We parted ways with the buses at the Beltway; we opted for Route 29 and beat a ton of traffic. I drove, and Ben wrote his gamer as we headed north. Read his story here, constructed as he rode shotgun:

22a. And yes, it was a down-and-back away game trip for me. (I met up with Ben in the Maryland press box; he took a plane in from Minnesota.) Left Centre Hall at 9:01 a.m.; returned at 12:09 a.m.

The post Poorman’s ALLar-22: Shelling Maryland, Spying Michigan and Frustrating Franklin (Again) appeared first on

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