Allar that Matters: PSU QB looks like real deal


It's not difficult to find things to complain about in a season opener, especially when it's against a competitive program.

This one likely is no different for Penn State fans.

West Virginia found a little bit too much success running the football against a defense that, in theory, had some questions coming into the season about how stout it could be up the middle. Linebacker Abdul Carter — one of the Nittany Lions' biggest difference-makers on defense — made a few plays late, but that's what it took to even get him on the stat sheet. Their sophomore kicker, Sander Sahaydak, missed a few imminently makeable field goals and got the hook at halftime. The explosive running game looked just OK, for a group from which many expect consistent, explosive results.

But if you're Penn State, there are two reasons you shrug that off as the cost of doing business against a West Virginia team that came to play, armed with a game plan to mitigate the Nittany Lions' stars.

1. You don't worry about the run defense, or Carter, or the running backs, long-term.

2. You trade sluggish starts from everyone else anyway, if you get a great one from the player that mattered most coming out of the gates.

Drew Allar is that important to Penn State this season. The more he overwhelmed the West Virginia defense to the tune of 325 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 38-15 win, the more obvious that became.

This offense has plenty of big-play threats. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen might be the best tailback tandem in the Big Ten. KeAndre Lambert-Smith is playing with a ton of confidence borne from a record-setting performance in January's Rose Bowl. Theo Johnson is an NFL tight end who didn't get a target in the opener.

But the ease with which Allar fires the ball downfield, and the accuracy he has worked to improve since his days at Medina High School in Ohio, show that he could easily be the best of them.

"That," coach James Franklin said, "is the Drew that we saw in preseason camp. I think that's, to be honest, the Drew we saw in limited reps last year. It's really good things."

This is not a knock on Penn State quarterbacks past, because this is clearly not a fair comparison. Trace McSorley had his share of success doing what he does well. Same for Sean Clifford, who has taken a dedication to football and self-improvement athletically to a backup role in the NFL. But they aren't blessed with Allar's gifts.

They don't fire out passes, on the money, to Harrison Wallace III with a mere flick of the wrist. He threw that pass often and effectively Saturday, making a throw scouts judge potential NFL quarterbacks on look practically effortless.

Those 325 yards were the second-most for a Penn State quarterback, in a season opener, making his first career start. And, he should have been even better. Two of the eight throws he made that hit the ground were dropped. Both were inside the 10 on plays that likely would have wound up as touchdowns.

He didn't panic after either. Nor did he panic when Lambert-Smith dropped what even he deemed a catchable slant pass that would have been another long touchdown.

He just ... kept throwing. Kept putting passes where they needed to be.

There were two things fans should count as especially impressive after Allar's debut performance.

He showed tremendous poise. And, he did so after making his share of mistakes that didn't affect the outcome.

"I know if I was to go in there as the starting quarterback in my first game, I would be a little nervous. But he's cold, man," linebacker Curtis Jacobs said. "He just comes in here and attacks every day. It really comes from his preparation, how he practices every day, how he works every day. Even how he comes out on a Thursday walk-through when we're not even running. Just how he operates as a person, I feel that really helps him out."

Allar said he feels too prepared to play the game to be nervous about it, so he insists his feelings are more anxious than anything.

Anxious to play the game.

Anxious to succeed in it.

But he has a knack for being the center of attention and not melting under the spotlight. Playing in front of the fourth-largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history against a team that had a summer to game plan for him, he looked calm and collected. Save one throw into the end zone that should have been intercepted and fell to the turf anyway, he acted like a veteran and played like one.

"He hasn't said that, but there's clearly a lot of pressure on him being that guy, the person who Penn State people think is about to save the program," Lambert-Smith said. "I felt like he handled it well. He's pretty consistent being the same guy."

Penn State will take the guy who led it to a win against West Virginia, for sure.

Reality is, there's more to him. So much more. Time and experience will tell how much. But all that talk about his potential from Franklin over the last year is starting to sound realistic. If it turns out that way, the Nittany Lions will have a shot to be what they want, to go where they want, the way they think they can get there.

DONNIE COLLINS is a sports columnist for The Times-Tribune. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PennStateTT.

DONNIE COLLINS is a sports columnist for The Times-Tribune. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PennStateTT.