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Grading The Offense Against Michigan State


"Everything was perfect today." - Derrick Williams


I normally start with the offensive line because, well, the offense starts with the offensive line. Well today we start with Daryll Clark, who did in fact get his swagger back. His 341 passing yards were the most a Penn State quarterback has thrown since 2003 and that, along with the rest of his ridiculous stat line, was enough to earn him a Big Ten Player Of The Week award for the second time this season.

vs Michigan St. / 11.22.08 Passing Rushing
Comp Att Pct Yds TD Rush Yds Avg TD
Daryll Clark 16 26 61.5 341 4 4 4 1.0 1

Everything that we were concerned about after Iowa and the first half of Indiana was completely absent. He made the short passes, he held on to the ball, he was throwing beautiful long balls to receivers in the cold and wind. The big play offense that had been lacking for several weeks was back with passes of 70, 49, 37, 33 and 32 yards.

Not to complain, but it is interesting to note the Clark is simply not running the ball. This isn't a bad thing; his QB rating on Saturday was 222.47 (yes, you are reading that right). This marks the fifth time this season Clark had under 10 yards rushing.

Final Grade: A+

Offensive Line

I usually grade these guys based on rushing stats but I think it's important to give them credit for the time Clark had to throw the ball. There was just one sack on the day and a good effort on the play calls that require the quarterback to not only wait for the play to develop, but also be able to lean forward and throw the strike down field. You really can't underestimate how important it was for Clark to have time to gain confidence.

Royster received most of the meaningful carries and was good for his usual 6.6 ypc. Shipley was an absolute beast down field, at one point blocking the entire Michigan State defense and then tackling the ball carrier on accident. There is still football to be played, and there are three important seniors on this line, but Shipley is one of those guys you probably aren't going to even come close to replacing. He is fun to watch.

Final Grade: A

Running Backs

In cold weather, at home, it was important to set the tone with solid running. Royster has been by far the most underrated back in the conference. He doesn't waste any time getting to the line of scrimmage yet is perfectly patient when waiting for lanes to develop. He always falls forward for that extra yard or two and (with the exception of when a defensive lineman comes unblocked right up the middle for a clean hit) is difficult to bring down. He doesn't get the carries he needs to earn the newspaper touting, but I wouldn't trade him and his 6.5 ypc for any other back in the league. He fits perfectly into a very diverse offense and rarely disappoints when he gets the ball.

Green ran well, and is definitely very good at accelerating in open space, but his up-the-middle game needs work. The two of them are both worth playing as the warn out "home run" analogy for Green is probably a good one. It forces the defense to change the way they play and I think, even if Green has trouble getting the fourth yard between the tackles, his presence is very valuable to the success of the offense.

Final Grade: A

Wide Receivers

There was a point in the third quarter where the announcers commented on the complete absence of Deon Butler in the passing game. He immediately caught three passes, all for touchdowns, and ended the day with 133 yards and a 44 yard per catch average. Williams scored a TD himself, and Norwood was good for 127 yards. I have nothing else to add to their performance except to say that it could not have been more fun to watch. There will be plenty of time to get nostalgic about the value of these three players, but for now just appreciate the fact that we get to watch them play one more time.

vs Michigan St. / 11.22.08 Receiving
Rec Yards Avg TD
Derrick Williams 4 51 12.8 1

vs Michigan St. / 11.22.08 Receiving
Rec Yards Avg TD
Deon Butler 3 133 44.3 3

vs Michigan St. / 11.22.08 Receiving
Rec Yards Avg TD
Jordan Norwood 5 127 25.4 0

Graham Zug was a two start recruit who received scholarship offers from mostly D1-aa schools. He finished with 33 yards and a nifty TD on third and long in the red zone.

Final Grade: A+