Report Card: Grading Penn State’s Week 1 win vs. West Virginia

Penn State started the 2023 season with a glimpse of things to come this season. It also showed a few areas that could be worrisome later this season.

But after celebrating a 38-15 victory over West Virginia in front of a packed Beaver Stadium, it will be all smiles for the Nittany Lions the rest of the weekend.

Drew Allar was officially named the team’s starting quarterback with a scoreboard announcement less than half an hour before kickoff, and he looked every bit the star in the making he was expected to be. The defense had some physical battles won and a few lost, and the special teams will have to work on a few things. But all things considered, Penn State had a solid debut to be happy with going into Week 2.

With the first game in the books, here is the first report card of the 2023 season for Penn State.


Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: A-minus

Was it a perfect starting debut for sophomore Drew Allar? No, of course not. There were a few moments where things looked a little disorganized, but that is being a little bit nitpicky on a night when Allar passed for 325 yards (the most by a Big Ten quarterback in Week 1) and three touchdowns. Allar completed 21 of 29 pass attempts and seemed to connect well with KeAndre Lambert-Smith as his primary target. Allar took a couple of hits you would like to see him not take and NBC analyst Todd Blackledge pointed out at least one throw he felt Allar could have made better his intended target, but it was hard not to be impressed by his vision and patience throughout the game.

NEXT: Running backs

Running Backs

Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: B-plus

Penn State’s running back duo of Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen had a good season debut, although neither rushed for 100 yards and Singleton scored the only rushing touchdown by a Penn State running back. Each had some good runs that reminded you how much of an impact they will each have in the offense this season. Singleton even put on display his ability to throw a few good blocks for the passing game.

The two backs combined for 121 yards on 23 combined rushing attempts on a night when Penn State rushed for 146 yards as a team, so they certainly left their mark on this one. Allen also added a 15-yard reception.

NEXT: Receivers and Tight Ends

Receivers and Tight Ends

Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: B-plus

After losing two wide receivers and the team’s leading tight end to the NFL, there were some big shoes to fill in the passing game for Penn State this season. KeAndre Lambert-Smith picked up right where he left off in the Rose Bowl by emerging as the team’s top go-to option. Lambert-Smith led all players with 123 yards on four receptions with a pair of touchdowns.

Lambert-Smith found enough open space to give Drew Allar a chance to make a play on the game’s first offensive series by the Nittany Lions, and he capitalized on it with a 72-yard touchdown on the first series of the season. He added a second touchdown in the second half by once again getting into open space and making a nice play to catch the ball and keep his feet in for the score.

Harrison Wallace III led the team with seven receptions on eight targets for 72 yards. Florida State transfer Malik McClain had a nice Penn State debut with four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.

In all, nine Penn State players caught a pass in the game. Perhaps surprisingly, just one of the 22 receptions came from a tight end. Tyler Warren had a 9-yard gain after catching one of the two passes heading his way. Odds are we will see more tight end opportunities in the passing game moving forward, but Warren and Theo Johnson handled their blocking assignments as well.

NEXT: Defense


Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: B

Curtis Jacobs led the team with 10 tackles in the season opener and he recorded one of the three sacks Penn State tallied against a strong West Virginia offensive line. The Penn State defensive line had some trouble in a number of situations with the size difference in the trenches. That led to a quiet night for Chop Robinson (2 tackles, 1 TFL) and linebacker Abdul Carter (1 tackle, 1 sack). But Carter was regularly in pursuit and involved in plays with pressure. He did get beat by West Virginia quarterback Garrett Greene on a nice run for an apparent first down, but Carter doesn’t get fooled often like that.

Penn State’s defense didn’t force any turnovers, which may have been a bit of a surprise given how much focus is placed on creating opportunities by defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. But the Nittany Lions defense held for a couple of turnovers on downs, so that should count for something.

NEXT: Special Teams

Special Teams

Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: C-minus

This was not a grand debut for the Penn State special teams unit. Kicker Sander Sahaydak missed each of his first two field goal attempts from 38 and 34 yards, respectively, in the first half. Those missed field goals prevented Penn State from creating separation and a two-score game before halftime. Alex Felkins attempted Penn State’s only field goal try of the second half, and he converted a 25-yard attempt. Felkins was good on all three of his extra-point attempts, and Sahaydak converted each of the two he attempted.

Nick Singleton returned one West Virginia kickoff for a 19-yard return and Kaytron Allen was dropped for a 2-yard loss on a punt return. Punter Riley Thompson was called on just twice. He punted once from the Penn State  40-yard line just 29 yards to allow West Virginia to start at their own 31-yard line, leading to a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 in the second quarter,

Special teams shortcomings didn’t hurt Penn State against West Virginia, and they likely will not cost Penn State too many games this season. But if there is an area that needs some improvement the most, it would be on special teams.

NEXT: Overall Grade

Overall Grade: B-plus

Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State will not have to sit and dwell on any major parts of their performance in Week 1. The offense took some time to get the wheels really going, which should have been expected, and the defense held their opponent to fewer than 20 points even without forcing a turnover. West Virginia may have been picked to finish at the bottom of the Big 12, but this was still a solid all-around team victory for the Nittany Lions.

There will be some wrinkles that need to be ironed out, and next week should allow for some opportunities to do just that. But a win is a win, and Penn State has their first one of the season under their belts.

Next up for Penn State

Penn State will be home again in Week 2. The Nittany Lions will host Delaware, a top-25 Football Championship Subdivision team making its first trip to Beaver Stadium.

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Story originally appeared on Nittany Lions Wire