STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — With a mere flick of his wrist, rocket-armed Drew Allar began a new era in Happy Valley.
This is what the 6-foot-5, 242-pound quarterback’s teammates and coaches gushed about all summer. The sophomore signal caller can make it look easy.
Allar, who sat behind five-year starter Sean Clifford last year, threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start to help No. 7 Penn State beat West Virginia 38-15 on Saturday night in their season opener.
“That’s the Drew we saw in preseason camp. That’s the Drew we saw in limited reps last year,” coach James Franklin said. “He was extremely poised.”
KeAndre Lambert-Smith caught two touchdown passes — including a 72-yard dart that required very little windup from Allar, even though he was scrambling through the pocket when he launched it downfield. The ball soared over a lunging Mountaineer defender and fell perfectly into Lambert-Smith’s hands. The wideout didn’t even need to hit full speed to finish the scoring play.
Nick Singleton added a rushing touchdown, Malik McClain caught a touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter for the Nittany Lions, who pulled away after leading 14-7 at halftime.
Backup Beau Pribula ran for a touchdown with six seconds left and kicker Alex Felkins added a 25-yard field goal.
It was the first time the two regional rivals played since meeting every year from 1947 until 1992. Penn State won all but six of those games and, with a deep, experienced roster that expects to contend for the Big Ten championship and more left little room for the Mountaineers to err in the opener.
Penn State outgained West Virginia 405-198 through three quarters. Meanwhile, a swarming defense forced four punts and three turnovers on downs.
Still, the Big 12 foes played hard after making the 184-mile trip north to Beaver Stadium. Quarterback Garrett Greene accounted for 233 total yards and CJ Donaldson scored on a short run to tie it at 7 early in the second quarter.
Singleton powered in from two yards out to give his team the lead for good two possessions later and Allar and his receivers helped Penn State pull away. He mimed a crisp fake handoff before hitting a wide-open Lambert-Smith in the end zone from 12 yards out to complete Penn State’s first possession of the second half.
From there the Mountaineers ran out of steam until Greene plunged in from a yard out with 3:34 to play. He hit Donaldson for a 2-point conversion to cap the scoring.
“I have no doubt we will bounce back,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “We are onward and upwards.”
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Allar spread the ball around to nine targets.
“This summer was huge for us,” Allar said. “I think it really paid off with all the work that we put in and through fall camp and (KeAndre) had a really good game tonight and so did a lot of receivers.”
After starting kicker Sander Sahaydak missed field goals from 34 and 38 yards in the first half, Franklin opted to switch kickers for the Nittany Lions’ third PAT try and all kicks thereafter. Felkins was perfect with three PATs and the lone field goal.
West Virginia: Greene played relatively mistake free but didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers who caught just 10 of 18 targets. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers’ defense hung in as good as it could. A similar effort might be pretty solid against teams with fewer weapons than the Nittany Lions.
Penn State: There is a lot of excitement in Happy Valley and for good reason. Allar checked all the boxes in his first start. He went 21 for 29, while Lambert-Smith looked every bit a No. 1 receiver. Meanwhile, star tailbacks Singleton and Kaytron Allen picked up where they left off last year and moved piles all night with 137 combined offensive yards.
West Virginia: Hosts FCS opponent Duquesne on Saturday.
Penn State: Hosts FCS foe Delaware on Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll