The NCAA simulator has been forcing itself to logical extremes in terms of score totals for Penn State this year. Blowout losses have been the most common absurd result, but the individual performances tend to lend themselves well to each matchup. This week, we're pitting the Nittany Lions against the Georgia Bulldogs in the TaxSlayer Bowl, as both teams look to finish disappointing season on a relative high note. For their part, Georgia parted ways with longtime head coach Mark Richt after losing star running back Nick Chubb for the season to injury. Penn State, well, you know that story all too well by now. Let's get on with it.
This game started out as an unholy battle of garbage offense being dominated by defensive strengths. After winning the toss and deferring, Penn State stuffed running back Sony Mitchell, then ol' reliable Carl Nassib sacked Georgia QB Greyson Lambert twice for an enticing three-and-out.
Unfortunately, that'd be a sign of things to come for the rest of the quarter. Penn State would get a three-and-out of their own, with Saquon Barkley getting stuffed twice and Christian Hackenberg underthrowing a screen pass on second down. A battle of punts back-and-forth had this feeling like an IU-PSU classic rivalry matchup, but it was also very boring to watch. One fun thing was Penn State busting out the I-formation on fourth and inches (it worked!).
Penn State got it together in the second quarter thanks to the man who has kept the offense running all year: Saquon Barkley. The freshman running back took a delayed draw 68 yards for the game's first score on Penn State's first play from scrimmage in the quarter. It was the type of electric run that put him on the map early on, and made it seem like maybe this was Penn State's time.
Then, Georgia returned the kickoff for a touchdown. One play from scrimmage, 31 seconds elapsed total, and a score for each team. Joey Julius absolutely whiffed on the final tackle attempt in what would be a phenomenal gif in real life. Penn State's next drive was all passing, and Hackenberg utilized his quick outs and slants as best he could. The fact that all of Georgia's front seven player were more highly rated than any of Penn State's linemen forced lots of quick throws and sacks throughout. Penn State drove down to the 28 before stalling, and Tyler Davis' field goal attempt came up about three yards short.
Georgia would march and score a touchdown, stop Penn State again, take a terrible Pasquariello punt right at midfield, and score another touchdown. In a very short timespan, the optimism was gone. Penn State's last drive involved two incompletions deep and a knee to go into the half, down 21-7.
The Nittany Lions took the ball at the half after deferring, and Koa Farmer was promptly stripped at his own 41-yard line after what looked like a solid return. UGA's offense had a field day through the air against a Penn State secondary that sorely, sorely missed Jordan Lucas. While they gained just 19 yards on the ground in the first half, they had over 200 through the air, and continued the trend over the final two quarters.
Several big passing gains on a Grant Haley-Malik Golden double team was probably the most embarrassing part, and a naked bootleg on first-and-goal from the five put UGA up 28-7. Two sacks and an interception made up the next part of the drive for the Nittany Lions. UGA was finally stopped by the Penn State defense thanks to heavy pressure from Austin Johnson and Jason Cabinda, and a solid punt return put PSU in decent field position. Hack hit Chris Godwin down to the 13 on a stop-and-go route for a gain of 28, but the team stalled there. Tyler Davis avenged his earlier miss to cut the lead to 28-10.
The end finally came for the 2015 Penn State football season in the fourth quarter. Hack briefly left the game after taking a bad sack, and Trace McSorley promptly threw away an option pitch to Barkley on his first play. It was one of those things that happens far more in NCAA than in real life, but I know you can picture it. UGA got another touchdown through the air to make it 35-10 before they just decided to run as much as possible and put the Nittany Lions out of their misery.
A couple of deep incompletions, failed fourth down conversions, poorly executed bubble screens, and an injury to Angelo Mangiro with four minutes to play were the highlights of the rest of the game, and the football gods finally granted mercy. It was hideous. It probably won't happen like this in real life...at least, I hope not. If that's the last game Hack plays, he was sacked nine times, so it would at least befit the last two years of his career. Please note that when I did an extra sim with Joe Moorhead and his offense installed as the playcalling mechanism, the score was 28-17. So there's hope yet!
Final: Georgia 35 - Penn State 10
Here are Penn State's NCAA 14 final season ratings (modified by me as the season progressed) among players who actually played in the simulation are below in depth chart form. Discuss and debate as you wish, but consider these my player grades for the season to an extent.
|RB1||#26 Saquon Barkley - 91 Overall|
|RB2||#22 Akeel Lynch - 84 Overall|
Dom Salomone - 99 Overall
|WR-X||#12 Chris Godwin - 87 Overall||#13 Saeed Blacknall - 80 Overall||#84 Juwan Johnson - 73 Overall|
|WR-Z||#7 Geno Lewis - 81 Overall||#80 Matt Zanellato - 70 Overall|
|TE||#11 Brent Wilkerson -77 Overall||#88 Mike Gesicki - 78 Overall||#87 Kyle Carter - 83 Overall|
|WR-F||#5 DaeSean Hamilton - 85 Overall||#3 DeAndre Thompkins - 75 Overall||#10 Brandon Polk - 79 Overall|
|LT||#73 Paris Palmer - 72 Overall|
|LG||#66 Angelo Mangiro - 79 Overall|
|C||#55 Wendy Laurent - 73 Overall|
|RG||#72 Brian Gaia - 69 Overall|
|RT||#59 Andrew Nelson - 75 Overall||#70 Brendan Mahon - 68 Overall|
|Def.||First Team||Second Team||Reserves|
|DE||#95 Carl Nassib - 94 Overall||#19 Torrence Brown - 82 Overall|
|DT||#98 Anthony Zettel - 90 Overall||#91 Tarow Barney - 79 Overall|
|DT||#99 Austin Johnson - 89 Overall|
|DE||#90 Garrett Sickels - 84 Overall||#94 Evan Schwan - 77 Overall|
|OLB||#11 Brandon Bell - 82 Overall||#43 Manny Bowen - 73 Overall|
|MLB||#40 Jason Cabinda - 81 Overall||#8 Gary Wooten - 73 Overall|
|OLB||#42 Troy Reeder - 80 Overall||#33 Jake Cooper - 73 Overall|
|CB||#15 Grant Haley - 82 Overall||#29 John Reid - 79 Overall|
|FS||#2 Marcus Allen - 74 Overall||#28 Troy Apke - 73 Overall|
|SS||#6 Malik Golden - 74 Overall|
|CB||#10 Trevor Williams - 83 Overall|
|Sp.||First Team||Second Team||Reserves|
|K||#95 Tyler Davis - 75 Overall||#99 Joey Julius - 74 Overall|
|P||#92 Dan Pasquariello - 72 Overall||#37 Chris Gulla - 71 Overall|
|KR||#7 Koa Farmer - 83 KR||#10 Brandon Polk - 82 KR|
|PR||#3 DeAndre Thompkins - 81 KR||#10 Brandon Polk - 82 KR|
|LS||#44 Tyler Yazujian - 82 LS|
#37 Chris Gulla - ???