Allen doesn't impress in debut, Orange lose to Penn State

The Orange failed to capitalize on opportunities, eventually falling to Penn State in MetLife Stadium.

Drew Allen’s career at Syracuse got off to an inauspicious start on Saturday at MetLife Stadium when the first snap from scrimmage for the Orange was botched for a 3-yard loss.

Things didn’t get much better for Syracuse, either, as Allen completed just 16 of 37 passes in a 23-17 loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0) in the second New York’s College Classic.

Photo: Andrew Renneisen
Head coach Scott Shafer leaves the field at Metlife Stadium after Syracuse's loss to Penn State 23-17.

Down 13 points, defensive end Robert Welsh got the Orange (0-1) back into the game with just seven minutes left. Welsh intercepted PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg and returned the ball to Penn State’s one-yard line. Jerome Smith punched in the touchdown run one play later to cut Penn State’s lead to 23-17.

The Orange wouldn’t score again, however, as the two drives following the touchdown were stopped short. With two minutes left, the Orange offense had one last opportunity to capitalize after the defense forced several three-and-outs. But it ended with Allen’s second interception of the night, and Penn State was able to run out the clock.

“I liked the way the kids competed,” Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said. “We just came up short.”

The Orange offense struggled for most of the game, as Allen failed to throw the ball down field and SU tailbacks Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley rushed for 73 and 24 yards, respectively.

“There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win,” Allen said. “This time we just came up short. With no timeouts it’s tough to throw the ball down field with no checkdown.”

After a strong first-half performance where the Syracuse defense allowed just six points, the Orange couldn't stop Penn State after wide receiver Allen Robinson returned. Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien benched Robinson, a First Team All Big 10 receiver in 2012, for the first half for an undisclosed reason.

Immediately upon returning to the game, Robinson caught two passes in a 76-yard drive that ended in a Penn State touchdown.

“He’s a good football player,” Shafer said. “Good football players make plays.”

Outside of the 133 yards on seven receptions allowed to Robinson, the Orange played tough defense, allowing just 163 passing yards on 17 receptions to other receivers.

“We had a bump here and there,” senior linebacker Marquis Spruill said. “They made some big plays but we just have to make corrections.”

Like Allen, PSU’s Hackenberg was recently named the starter and went through some growing pains on the field. Hackenberg faired better, though, completing 23 of 31 passes for 278 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“I thought the kid did a good job,” Shafer said.

Before struggling in the second half with two interceptions, Allen looked comfortable in his first game with the Orange.

Completing short, precise passes, Allen said he felt comfortable and didn’t fight any nervousness.

“I went out there and was comfortable,” he said. “I had no jitters or nervousness at all. I went out there and just had fun.”

Even with Allen’s struggles, the Orange had multiple opportunities to score while starting on Penn State’s side of the field twice in the first half but coming away with only three points.

Piling onto those missed opportunities was the final drive, which came after the Syracuse defense stopped Penn State deep in its own territory.

“I thought we were going to win,” Shafer said. “I thought we were right where we wanted to be.” 

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