Penn State football report card: Young guns take care of business, shine hope vs. Ohio

Frank Bodani
York Daily Record

STATE COLLEGE −Penn State got experience for their backups as well as their quickly-rising freshmen stars.

It improved running the ball and blocking for it, at least statistically speaking.

And it did not seem to suffer any significant injuries or setbacks in dispatching overmatched Ohio University, 46-10, in Beaver Stadium, in the way a Mid-American Conference opponent is supposed to be handled here in September.

There certainly were points to be gained in the lead-up to more impactful action ahead, starting with a trip to Auburn next weekend.

Sep 10, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Nicholas Singleton (10) celebrates with offensive linesman Sal Wormley (77) after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Ohio Bobcats at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Most importantly, the Nittany Lions did not take any steps backward while shining even brighter lights on the future, particularly on offense.

That's what tantalizing, teasing performances from rookies like Nick Singleton, Drew Allar and Omari Evans will do for you on an otherwise breezy, nonchalant kind of afternoon when victory is never really in jeopardy.

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Penn State squeezed about everything possible out of what amounted to serious scrimmage, and there's something to be said for that after two disappointing seasons.

Here are the grades after working over the Bobcats from Ohio:

Offense: B+

Sep 10, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Ohio Bobcats at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Ohio 46-10. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

While the two star rookies stole everyone's attention, sixth-year senior Sean Clifford turned in another impressive overall effort.

It was mostly a committee approach for the receivers and running backs again, so much shuffling in and out and the number of bodies utilized. Once again, the Lions missed prized tight end Theo Johnson to an apparent, undisclosed injury.

Most importantly, Singleton and Allar showed the grand possibilities ahead with a second week of extended work.

Singleton displayed his high-echelon quickness in choosing and shifting into running lanes and then his elite speed to capitalize. He's becoming a legitimate threat to produce a breakaway run every time he touches the ball.

Ten carries for 179 yards and two long scoring runs showed that.

Allar complimented him well, getting earlier third-quarter work than maybe any backup QB under James Franklin. Allar pushed his first-game progress with rare decision-making awareness and accuracy for his age and experience.

While the receivers and offensive line didn't dominate, they did provide upgraded efforts from their opening struggles at Purdue.

Defense: B

Sep 10, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Ohio Bobcats wide receiver James Bostic (18) runs with the ball while trying to avoid a tackle from Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Marquis Wilson (8) during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Ohio 46-10. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

A solidly-effective performance from each level, though no one offered the flash or dramatic results as the secondary did the previous week.

All-America candidate safety Ji'Ayir Brown was more active and productive from week one and the unit, as a whole, tightened up whenever the Bobcats began to threaten.

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There was that one soft series in the second quarter, when Ohio scored its only touchdown. Otherwise, a workmanlike effort against an overmatched opponent, just never smothering.

Special teams: B+

Another quietly impressive effort, especially with the work of punter Barney Amor and punt returner Parker Washington.

Amor has been a revelation since taking over for all-star Jordan Stout. Amor had two more punts die near the goal line. He averaged an impressive 49 yards on his three attempts.

While Washington did not break a return yet, he looked comfortable as any Penn State returner over the years and showed promising productivity and panache. His big-play time should come, and sooner than later.

Coaching: A-

Sep 10, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin reacts from the sideline during the second quarter against the Ohio Bobcats at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Ohio 46-10. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Impressive use of Singleton and Allar, getting both extended, meaningful reps to build confidence. The staff got to acquire crucial in-game experience for a multitude of hopeful backups.

Clifford, for example, has not made it through any of his starting seasons unscathed, so it has been imperative for Allar to get quality work early in order to be prepared for bigger moments to come.

Overall: B+

Penn State's Omari Evans was one of several freshmen who made big plays against Ohio. His first college catch went for a 32-yard touchdown.

The Lions handled their business about as well as possible in a day where there's far more to lose than gain.

Where does the critical offensive line play truly stand? We really won't begin to know that until next week at Auburn.

But the blocking was good enough to allow Singleton to reach the right corner multiple times and use his rare abilities to do the rest. That says something. Maybe that will be good enough on most days.

Defensively, there's still more to show, especially along the front seven. Linemen P.J. Mustipher, Adisa Isaac and Hakeem Beamon have not flashed much as they work their way back from missing most of last season.

That must begin to change this week.

Play of the game: Nick Singleton's 70-yard touchdown run

It appeared to be a simple run to the right side.

And then Nick Singleton did what Penn State has not truly seen since Saquon Barkley in 2017.

Singleton picked his proper running lane, then smoothly hit the gas and almost seemed to glide against furiously-chasing Ohio defenders. He used the sideline perfectly and sprinted the rest of 70 yards into the end zone for Penn State's first big run of the season.

The play felt like it covered only 40 yards. That's how easy and quickly it materialized −a testament to Singleton's rare gear.

The play energized the crowd, relieved those embattled blockers he's been working behind and showed that Penn State, finally, does have the ability to run the ball with big-play possibilities, once more.

Player of the game: Nick Singleton

He nearly broke the school's all-time record for most rushing yards by a true freshman.

He would have, almost surely, if needed against Ohio.

It was not, so he only carried the ball 10 times. He did gain 179 yards, breaking three carries for 40 or more yards. He proved to be the best offensive weapon on the field in just his second college game.

He should only get better with more time and experience.

Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at fbodani@ydr.com and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.