So, has your heart rate/blood pressure returned to normal, yet? Good. Here’s how we graded yesterday’s performance:
Considering the fact that Trace McSorley only completed 19 of his 41 passing attempts, this may seem like a generous grade. He certainly struggled at times yesterday, prompting some folks (including Yours Truly) to clamor for Tommy Stevens to get some action. Credit to the coaching staff though for sticking with Trace through thick and thin, especially since the thick moments involved Trace stepping up in the pocket and throwing the 80-yard touchdown strike to Irvin Charles that helped spark PSU’s 17-0 run in the second half to erase a 13-3 halftime deficit, running on an option keeper into the end zone to break a 13-13 tie, and running his way into easy field goal range for Tyler Davis in the waning seconds of regulation that allowed PSU the opportunity to win it in overtime. More importantly, Trace did not turn the ball over once.
Running Back: C
Look, it’s not Saquon Barkley’s fault that his offensive line is terrible at run blocking or that opposing defenses sell out to shut him down. That being said, however, the ‘C’ grade would have been a ‘D’ if not for his game-winning touchdown run in overtime after being bottled up for the entirety of regulation. Better late than never though, right?
Wide Receiver/Tight End: A
I can’t think of a better way to make your first collegiate catch than by taking it 80 yards to the house the way Irvin Charles did. De’Andre Thompkins and Mike Gesicki also had long receptions that set up a field goal and a touchdown, respectively. Meanwhile, Chris Godwin stepped up with a ridiculously clutch grab on 3rd and 10 in the game’s final minute to keep PSU’s hopes alive. When you amass a total of 335 yards as a unit, it’s hard to complain.
Offensive Line: A for pass blocking/F for run blocking
The O-line did a solid job of keeping Trace’s jersey clean when he stepped back to throw by not allowing a single sack. However, they once again showed a frightening lack of ability to open holes for Saquon Barkley to run through, which led to him being mostly neutralized during the game.
Defensive Line: C+
While the D-line did struggle to handle Minnesota’s ground game overall (both Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks ran for over 100 yards each), the unit as a whole did a good job of containing Mitch Leidner, not allowing him to run loose for big gains. Shout-out to Evan Schwan for coming up with a clutch sack on Leidner in overtime that forced the Gophers to settle for a long field goal, which allowed Barkley’s touchdown run on PSU’s ensuing possession to be one that ended the game, as opposed to just extending the game.
An already depleted unit suffered two more casualties when Brandon Smith and Jake Cooper left the game with injuries. Once again, they struggled with stopping the opponent’s ground attack but despite such struggles, Cameron Brown and Manny Bowen stepped up, combing for a total of 16 tackles.
Marcus Allen’s 22 tackles is an incredible stat, even if it means that the front seven was struggling to do their job. Getting Grant Haley back was nice, but seeing Christian Campbell leave the game with an injury was quite the “You have got to be f**king kidding me” moment. Jordan Smith however, was more than willing to step up, coming up with arguably the most clutch defensive play of the game by intercepting Mitch Leidner’s pass in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter with the game tied at 20 and Minnesota looking like they were going to at the very least, kick a go-ahead field goal.
Special Teams: A
Tyler Davis was his usual clutch self, hitting on all three of his field goal attempts, and breaking Sam Ficken’s consecutive field goals made streak with 18 in a row. Joey Julius’ mere presence on the kickoff coverage caused Minnesota’s kick returner Jaylen Myrick to slow down and Julius himself got knocked down (but got back up again) on a cheap shot by Minnesota linebacker Jaylen Waters. Blake Gillikin merely averaged 39 yards per punt, although he was attempting to pooch punt inside Minnesota’s 10-yard line on a couple of his punts, and he did nail a 56-yarder, so we won’t be too harsh on him.