Though 20 points may not look like much against a pedestrian defense like the Golden Gophers, further drilling down into the stats shows just how much Penn State dominated this game. The Nittany Lions amassed 464 yards of total offense to Minnesota's 138. They accumulated 21 first downs to Minnesota's 7. They held the ball for just shy of 42 minutes with no turnovers and no sacks. The only thing keeping the score down on Saturday was the weather, lousy field position, and some inopportune penalties that stopped some drives just short. But overall it was a solid performance by the offense. Let's grade them out.
Daryll Clark started a little slow and had trouble connecting with his receivers in the early going. He only hit one of his first four passes for just six yards to Graham Zug in the first two drives, and both of them stalled. But then he got things going and led Penn State on drives of 12 plays, 10 plays, 12 plays, 6 plays, 13 plays, and 10 plays. He showed terrific pocket awareness and he checked down to the open man instead of trying to take deep passes that weren't there. At the end of the day his stat line looked like this.
|vs Minnesota / 10.17.09||Passing||Rushing|
I can't really complain about that. Maybe it's not appropriate after the poor game he played against Iowa, but it's not unrealistic in this year with no clear front runner to think that Daryll Clark might have a chance to climb back in the Heisman race. He'll have to keep performing on this level through tough games against Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State coming up.
Final Grade: A
I thought Evan Royster looked as good as he has all year. He was decisive and patient in using his blocks well. After the game Joe said Royster had a tough time shaking the flu which drained his energy. This week he finally looked like the Royster of old effortlessly ripping off some nice runs. It's good to have him back.
|vs Minnesota / 10.17.09||Rushing||Receiving|
Stephfon Green left the game with yet another ankle injury. No word yet on how serious it is. Of course this meant more carries for Royster who had a season high 23 on Saturday. With 641 yards on the season he's on pace to finish around 1100 yards before the bowl season, but if Green can't go you have to figure Royster's carries are going to go up so we may have to revise that total upward.
Final Grade: A
Who's the best wide receiver in the Big Ten? I would say Eric Decker. But right after him it might be Derek Moye. Moye is fifth in the conference in receiving yards despite having nearly 20 catches less than the guys around him in the standings. He's averaging less than four catches per game, but a whopping 17.5 yards per catch. He is clearly Clark's favorite target and it's easy to see why. He's got speed to get open deep. He has the size to outjump most defenders. He has great field awareness as shown on that touchdown catch where he dragged the foot to stay in bounds. And he makes tremendous adjustments to the ball. It's time Moye start getting the recognition he deserves.
Zug and Quarless were also key to the game making several grabs for first downs to keep the sticks moving.
Final Grade: A
I'm really impressed with the progress the offensive line has made in the weeks since the Iowa debacle. It looked like it was going to be a long season, but they came together and have played really well since. Ako Poti did an ok job, but he did look overmatched at times. It'll be interesting to see what happens when DeOn'tae Pannell and Nerraw McCormack come back from their ankle injuries. It looks like we still don't have the right tackle position nailed down yet.
One bad thing, there were entirely too many penalties this week. Some of them killed promising scoring drives. I'm not too worried though as Penn State came into this game one of the least penalized teams in the country. It was uncharacteristic to see that many holding and false start penalties by this team. For whatever reason they lacked focus, but unless I see a performance like that two weeks in a row I won't get worried yet.
I still see too many slow snaps from Wisniewski out of the shotgun. Paterno was asked about this the other week and he brushed it off, but I do think this is a problem. It's throwing off the timing of the offense. There was one play in particular I remember where Clark was going to fake a handoff to Royster cutting in front of him. Royster could have almost grabbed the snap himself, but he had to duck out of the way of it so Clark could catch it. Then on other plays it seems awkward for Clark to have to step up to catch the snap before he takes his drop. It throws off his timing and he shouldn't have to do that. I noticed last week it looks like Clark has taken a step forward to receive these snaps sooner. I wish Wiz would just fire it back there.
I can't think of too much to complain about here. Penn State pretty much did what they wanted to do on offense. I didn't like the call to go for a 49 yard field goal in the second quarter. Wagner barely hit one from 47 yards in the opposite end of the stadium in the first quarter. With a 4th and 4 at the Minnesota 32 yard line, your quarterback in a bit of a rhythm and your defense controlling the game, I thought it made sense to go for the first down there instead. The chances of Wagner making that kick were slim, and Minnesota ended up getting the ball back there anyway. Why not take a shot with a screen pass or a dump off to Quarless over the middle?
Final Grade: B