Welp, that was fun for a little bit...Let's be honest though: If this team is going to lose, I think we'd rather it happen like this as opposed to suffering a beatdown similar to what PSU laid upon Illinois last week. Anyway, I'll step off my soapbox now and give you what you really came here to read.
Things could not have started more poorly for Hack, as he started out completing only one of his first ten passing attempts (unfortunately, nailing a ref in the head does not count as a completion) but Hack did pull it together after that, going 21 for 30 passing and finishing with 205 yards overall. However, he did take a few sacks and also threw a very ill-timed interception midway through the fourth quarter with PSU driving inside Northwestern territory, looking to expand upon its tenuous 21-20 lead.
Running Back: A-
Saquon Barkley almost single-handedly prevented this year's edition of PSU-Northwestern from looking a lot like last year's, rushing for 120 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns and also catching six passes for 50 yards. The 'Wild Barkley' (Saquon Barkley running out of the wildcat formation) was probably PSU's most effective offensive play today. If he had just avoided a shoestring tackle on 2nd down on Penn State's final possession, he would've had a 20-30+ yard run that would've effectively sealed the game (or at the very least, forced Northwestern to burn all of its timeouts before getting the ball back with little time to drive down into field goal range).
Wide Receiver/Tight End: C-
Mike Gesicki's case of the drops came back to haunt him in the worst way today and DaeSean Hamilton also dropped a key pass that would've given PSU a first down inside Northwestern's 30 yard line looking to expand on a one-point lead in the fourth quarter (PSU subsequently would get called for a holding and throw an incomplete pass afterwards to kill the drive). That being said, Chris Godwin was stellar once again, catching five balls for 104 yards and Geno Lewis threw the game's best pass, hitting DaeSean Hamilton in stride on a reverse pass.
Offensive Line: D+
There were plenty of moments where Hack either got sacked or was running for his life because somebody whiffed on their man or failed to pick up a blitzing linebacker. Run blocking wasn't the best, but it was enough to allow Barkley to improvise. The stunning number of false start/holding penalties also helped kill some promising drives in Northwestern territory.
Defensive Line: C
First of all, congrats to Carl Nassib on becoming PSU's all-time single season sacks leader. That being said, it was not the best of performances, allowing Northwestern's Justin Jackson to run for 186 yards.
They had their moments, especially when Jason Cabinda came up with an interception that helped set up PSU's go-ahead touchdown. However, the middle of the field was far too often left open for Zack Oliver to play pitch-and-catch with his receivers in the first half and guys seemed uncharacteristically out of position at times.
They seemed to be a liability in run support and also got picked apart through the air, particularly in the first half and especially on Northwestern's game-winning drive. Grant Haley is going to have to channel the frustrations from dropping a probably game-sealing interception and subsequently allowing Northwestern's Austin Carr to get behind him for a first down catch on 3rd and 15 the very next play in a positive manner over these next couple of weeks.
Special Teams: D-
They squibbed every kickoff, including one which Solomon Vault turned into a 96-yard touchdown return to snatch away whatever momentum PSU had gotten after finally getting on the board to cut the deficit to 13-7 late in the first half. The punting game was alright, with neither Daniel Pasquerillo or Chris Gulla doing anything horrendous, but nothing really spectacular, either. Koa Farmer had a nice 37-yard kickoff return, but that's about the only real positive on special teams.