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Position Grades: Illinois

Overall it was a great performance but there is still room for improvement.

I believe Saquan Barkley can fly, I believe that he can touch the sky.
I believe Saquan Barkley can fly, I believe that he can touch the sky.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback: A

Saying that Christian Hackenberg took care of business is a bit of an understatement, as he caught a touchdown and threw for a pair while completing 72.4 percent of his passes and racked up 266 passing yards. Trace McSorely saw the lengthiest playing time of his career and did what was needed in the spot he filled. He had three rushes for 15 yards and managed the end of the game well. Nick Scott played one heck of a game, finishing with a 547.6 QB rating including one touchdown pass to Hackenberg. Literally every pass he threw today went for a touchdown. That's called efficiency, folks.

Running Back: B+

The group took care of business today. Barkley ran for 84 yards on 20 carries. It was the type of day that a starting running back needs to turn in, productive enough to employ the game plan. Mark Allen had 23 yards on two carries and a touchdown. The blocking could still use some work, but when it comes to running with the football, this is a really good group of backs.

Wide Receiver: B+

Outside of the DeAndre Thompkins fumble it was a steady, solid performance by the wideouts. Chris Godwin led the way with seven catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Several other players played well, as Hamilton, Thompkins and Gesicki averaged 13 yards or better per catch. Geno Lewis caught his first ever touchdown in Beaver Stadium, and some guy named Hackenberg hauled in a pass for a score.

Tight End: B

Only Mike Gesicki registered a reception, grabbing two balls for 26 yards. The group is still unfortunately not blocking very well. While the effort today was good enough to be a part of a 39-0 win, there is still room for improvement.

Offensive Line: C++

There are still too many mistakes. There were times when the group played well enough to execute the play and there were times when the group sabotaged the play before it had a chance to develop. Fortunately the occasional lows from the unit didn't hurt Penn State much today.

Defensive Line: A+

The group was part of a shutout effort. It allowed 37 net rushing yards. Anthony Zettel wore a Jason mask to the postgame interviews. Wes Lunt was pressured regularly enough that he struggled to get comfortable. It's hard to imagine a better outcome.

Linebackers: A-

Troy Reeder had an interception and return for 44 yards that set up an early touchdown. The group stopped the run well. It contributed to a pass rush that kept Lunt from getting comfortable. One area that needs improvement is pass coverage, as there were times where the 'backers were chasing receivers on underneath patterns. It didn't cost the team points, but it continued a few drives.

Secondary: B

The secondary played well. There were times when it allowed Illini receivers to get open and extend drives, but overall it did its job. One thing that won't show up on a stat sheet is the hard hitting from the safeties, as Marcus Allen punished Illinois player.

Special Teams: F+

The first kickoff was a touchback. The second kickoff was covered at the 16, a wonderful thing. Koa Farmer had a great return on the second half opening kickoff. There were two blocked extra points and Joey Julius may have lost his job. Thompkins fumbled a punt late in the game which could have allowed PSU to kill the clock. It ended up not costing Penn State, but it was ugly. There were kicks out of bounds. It wasn't pretty. Pasquariello averaged 41 yards per punt but was not reliable, having a couple of punts of 35 yards. The group gets a + for Tyler Davis' effort – he went 3-for-3 on extra points and converted two field goals.