Despite chasing by just seven points at halftime, WVU football (0-1) failed to keep up with the high-octane Nittany Lion offense in a 38-15 loss to No. 7 Penn State (1-0) on Saturday night in Happy Valley.
The Mountaineers entered the game as an overwhelming underdog, and to make things more difficult, 110,747 fans packed Beaver Stadium for both teams’ season opener.
WVU head coach Neal Brown elected junior Garrett Greene as its starting quarterback pregame, marking the first non-transfer starting quarterback in the Neal Brown era.
On the other sideline, Penn State spent next-to no time getting accustomed to the Drew Allar era.
Allar’s first drive as the Penn State starting quarterback drained just 1:56 off the clock on four plays. On 1st-and-10 from its own 28-yard line, he found receiver KeAndre Lambert Smith for a 72-yard passing touchdown that just missed the outstretched hands of safety Aubrey Burks in coverage.
Both teams traded punting drives before WVU solidified itself as a legitimate contender in Saturday night’s game.
WVU quarterback Garrett Greene (16-for-27 – 162 yards – one rushing TD) led WVU down the field for a nine-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that was finished with a strong one-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back CJ Donaldson.
What should have been early turning point in the game came later in the second quarter when WVU started its fourth drive of the night down 14-7.
Green completed a 17-yard pass to LSU transfer right end Kole Taylor, then he found running back Jaylen Anderson for back-to-back first downs. On the next set of downs, Brown opted to attempt a fourth-down conversion from the PSU 43 that went unsuccessful on a pass from Greene to freshman Traylon Ray.
Despite giving PSU a short field, WVU held the Nittany Lions scoreless to end the first-half.
On back-to-back drives, Allar drove the PSU offense inside the WVU 25-yard line. On back-to-back drives, PSU kicker Sander Sahaydak pulled his field-goal attempts wide right.
The Mountaineers kept Beaver Stadium quiet to start the second half when they forced an early three-and-out from PSU. When WVU responded with a stalled drive of its own, the Nittany Lions unleashed their third scoring drive of the night. The seven-play, 56-yard drive was stamped with an easy 12-yard pitch-and-catch from Allar to Lambert-Smith in the end zone for the second time on the evening and a 21-7 lead.
Now down two possessions, Brown knew the ensuing WVU drive was crucial. The Mountaineers attempted two fourth-down conversions – one of which was successful – but the drive stalled with a failed attempt inside the PSU 30-yard line.
Though the defense would bend-and-not-break on the next Nittany Lion drive, a field goal by PSU was essentially the dagger in Saturday night’s game. If not, the touchdown pass from Allar to junior receiver Malik McClain to extend the lead to 31-7 certainly was.
Allar finished the night with 325 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions) on 21-of-29 passing.
Both teams scored in the last four minutes of the game. Greene pranced in for a rushing touchdown, while PSU backup quarterback Beau Pribula added a rushing score of his own with 0:06 remaining in the game.
WVU returns to Morgantown for the home-opener next Saturday against Duquesne at 6:00 p.m.