Grading The Offense Against Michigan

All of the wrong things were happening to Penn State's offense -- botched snaps, fumbles, dropped passes, receivers coming up a foot short on third downs.  If you felt the onset of deja vu and dread, it was completely justified.  They eventually settled down, and with a little help from an amazingly stupid personal foul penalty, scored a late touchdown to make it a three-point deficit at halftime. 

Offensively, the turning point was cashing in with a touchdown after the third-quarter safety.  After Michigan shanked the free kick*, Penn State received the ball at the 50 yard line.  Four plays later, the score was 26-17 and the rout was on.

Anyway, the grades.

Offensive Coaching

Most of my gripes are of the player error variety.  However, something has to be done about Penn State's ghastly performance on 3rd and 1.  I mean, really.  It's one yard.  On Saturday, they went 0-for-3 on 3rd and 1.  They were just as awful against Purdue.  Fix this, please.

Also, despite Stephfon Green blazing through the Michigan secondary for PSU's final score, there's something very wrong and sloppy about Penn State's screen passes this season.  They appear very congested and dangerous, and I'm scared to death that Daryll Clark is going to bury a screen pass in a defensive lineman's stomach at a very inopportune time.

Finally, no more shotgun QB sweeps.  I think we only saw that play once on Saturday afternoon, on a 3rd and 2 early in the second quarter, and Clark made the first down by mere inches.

But whatever, this is beyond picky for a team putting up such large offensive numbers.

Final Grade: A-

 

Quarterback

Your numbers for Clark, 18-for-31, 171 yards, one touchdown, two fumbles (one lost).  Forty-six yards rushing, two touchdowns on QB sneaks.  Clark throws the "darts" well -- those 10-15 yard patterns that come out of his hand very naturally and are almost always on target.  When he makes mistakes, it tends to happen early in the game.  He's a ridiculously emotional guy, which is great if you're a linebacker or defensive end.  Quarterback?  Maybe not so much. 

The fumbles are troubling, obviously.  On the first, he had two hands on the ball and it still was knocked loose.  Nice hit, but he had two hands on the ball.  I don't know what the hell happened on the second fumble, which appeared to be a botched QB sneak on a 3rd and 1.

Good, not great.  We'll probably need "great" next week.

Final Grade: B 

 

Running Backs

What's left to be said about Evan Royster at this point?  He's still getting nearly eight yards per carry.  Stephfon Green is struggling to control his speed -- it's as if his legs are going way too fast for his brain.  Reminds me of old Road Runner cartoon, actually.  Joe Suhey did a nice job blocking on a few big plays.

Final Grade: A

 


Offensive Line

Solid effort here, as you would expect.  Michigan didn't sack Daryll Clark, and only came close on a few occasions.  There were a handful of blown assignments -- one of them resulted in Michigan LB John Thompson pulverizing poor Evan Royster -- but overall, who can complain?  No sacks, 6.1 yards per carry, minimal penalties.  Damn right it was a good day.

Final Grade: A

Wide Receivers

I'll lump the tight ends in here too.  Mickey Shuler has turned into a pretty good blocker, and had a good game despite his dropped pass.  You can tell that Jordan Norwood wanted to crawl into a hole after his consecutive bobbled passes in the first half, but he more than made up for his mistakes. 

This could've been Derrick Williams' quietest game ever (two receptions, 16 yards).  He had a chance for a relatively easy touchdown pass on a trick play, but didn't lead Deon Butler toward the sideline.  It was a sure touchdown if it was thrown correctly.  Of course, Deon Butler was the star (8 catches, 105 yards).  Along the sideline and over the middle, he was great.

Do not ever overlook the downfield blocking of this group.  They're the guys who are turning Royster's eight yard runs into 25-yard runs.

Final Grade: A-

* - Truly, there are no free kicks in space.

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