Blue White Illustrated

December 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 36 of 67

D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 3 3 7 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M TOP FIVE PLAYERS 1. Adisa Isaac | DE | R-Sr. Isaac hasn't gotten as much attention as fellow defensive ends Chop Robinson and Dani Dennis- Sutton, with the former being touted as a poten- tial first-round NFL Draft pick next year and the latter having arrived at Penn State with a five-star high school pedigree. But Isaac has been putting together a tremendous season. Through nine games, he was third in the Big Ten in sacks (6.5) and fourth in tackles for loss (10.5). He's a big reason why the Lions were leading the FBS with 38 sacks as a team. 2. Drew Allar | QB | So. Allar had a rough afternoon in Penn State's marquee matchup against Ohio State. The follow- ing week against Indiana, he threw his first career interception at a most inopportune time — just as the Lions were trying to finish off the stub- born Hoosiers in the fourth quarter. Unfazed, the sophomore quarterback found KeAndre Lambert- Smith on the sideline for a 57-yard touchdown that broke a 24-24 tie and sent PSU on its way to a 33-24 victory. Allar went on to enjoy one of his best after- noons against Maryland the following week, hitting 25 of 34 passes for 240 yards and 4 touch- downs. Through the season's first nine games, he had completed 62.9 percent of his attempts for 1,895 yards. The most impressive part of his statistical portfolio, however, was his 20-to-1 touchdown-interception ratio. 3. KeAndre Lambert-Smith | WR | Jr. Lambert-Smith has more than twice as many receptions and receiving yards as the next-closest Nittany Lion pass catcher (tight end Theo John- son). The junior wideout had caught 51 passes for 645 yards and 4 touchdowns through nine games, with his yardage total ranking third in the Big Ten behind only Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr. (914) and Illinois' Isaiah Williams (693). 4. Daequan Hardy | CB | R-Sr. Hindered early in the season by an injury, Hardy has gotten healthy and has been making a huge impact lately, both on defense and special teams. He's electrified the punt-return game, averaging 20.8 yards on his first 8 attempts, with a pair of touchdowns against Massachusetts. He's also played an ever-expanding role at cor- nerback, with a team-high 7 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. 5. Tyler Warren | TE | Jr. Penn State does not have a particularly deep wideout corps this year, which is why Warren's emergence as a reliable receiving threat has been so crucial. Through nine games, he was third on the team with 23 catches for 216 yards. Most im- portant of all, a team-best 6 of those receptions were for touchdowns. KEY MOMENT Allar's completion to Lambert-Smith against Indiana came at a point when it looked as though Penn State's entire season was in danger of go- ing sideways. The Nittany Lions were coming off a dreary 20-12 loss to Ohio State and had just squandered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against the Hoosiers. Had they panicked in that situation and lost to Indiana at home for the first time ever, it's not hard to imagine a scenario in which they struggle at Maryland, too. Instead, they regrouped, overcame the Hoosier threat, and pounded the Terps 51-15 the following week. BEST HIGHLIGHT The Allar-to-Lambert-Smith connection was both consequential and spectacular. For the sake of variety, though, let's go with Hardy's 2 punt- return touchdowns against Massachusetts, which covered 56 and 68 yards. He displayed tremen- dous open-field maneuverability on both, becom- ing the first Big Ten player since Iowa's Kevonte Martin-Manley in 2013 to return two punts for touchdowns in the same game. BOLD PREDICTION Penn State will not go the entire season without having anyone rush for 100 yards in a game. It's hard to believe the Lions have gotten this deep into the campaign without producing a 100-yard rushing game. When it happened two years ago, it was a statistical anomaly, but it made sense: The offensive line was middling, and the backfield didn't have any breakaway threats. But this year? The line has been upgraded, and sophomores Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Al- len are both proven playmakers in the backfield. A year ago, they totaled six 100-yard games be- tween them. Allen nearly topped the century mark against Maryland on Nov. 4, finishing with 91 yards on 14 carries. With the regular-season's homestretch and a bowl game remaining, there's still a chance for either Singleton or Allen (or both) to finally crack the 100-yard plateau. It has to happen at some point. Doesn't it? — Matt Herb Redshirt senior defensive end Adisa Isaac was third in the Big Ten with 6.5 sacks through Penn State's first nine games. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL PENN STATE FOOTBALL SUPERLATIVES G A M E 6 – G A M E 9

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