Well, that game was fun to watch yesterday, wasn’t it? On to the grades!
Yes, Trace McSorley only connected on 12 of his 23 passing attempts, but several of those attempts were 50/50 deep balls (at best) as part of an aggressive game plan to take some shots down field. Plus, Trace still threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns. That being said, Trace’s decision-making on the read options left more to be desired, there were a few instances where it seemed if he had carried the ball himself, he would’ve had plenty of open field ahead of him to run through.
Tommy Stevens showed more initiative in keeping the ball himself on the read-option (albeit, it was in garbage time against Purdue’s backups) and threw a nice deep ball to Irvin Charles that set up the touchdown that put PSU over the 60-point mark for the first time since 2008.
Running Back: A+++
When Saquon Barkley gets 277 total yards (207 rushing for two TD’s and another 70 receiving), Miles Sanders takes a dump-off pass from a pressured Trace McSorley to waltz into the end zone untouched, and Andre Robinson scores touchdowns on both of his carries, I reserve the full right to act like Ralphie’s teacher in A Christmas Story when grading the running backs’ performance.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: A-
Overall, this unit was fine. Mike Gesicki had a clutch grab on 3rd and long to keep Penn State’s opening drive alive that ultimately led to a touchdown. Chris Godwin also gracefully glided his way into the end zone after taking a pass wide open in the middle of the field, accounting for one of his pair of touchdowns on the day. Shout-outs also go out to Saeed Blacknall and Irvin Charles for grabbing a pair of deep balls thrown up by Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens, respectively. Yes, there were a few cases of the drops, but I’m also grading on a bit of curve, considering they were asked to make plays on a lot of 50/50 deep balls.
Offensive Line: A
When the offense racks up 511 yards of total offense, you have to give credit to the guys up front for holding their blocks/opening holes for the running backs and making sure the quarterback has a (relatively) clean jersey. Except for one sack and a few hurries given up, you can’t really ask for a better performance from the O-line.
Defensive Line: B+
I would have liked to have seen this unit get more pressure on the QB all by themselves (without the need to blitz linebackers) but overall, a solid job by this unit to contain Purdue’s ground game to 82 yards and hold their pesky tailback Markell Jones in check (Jones had 46 yards on seven carries).
Tackling seemed to be an issue in the first half, especially when Purdue was busy screen-passing the Penn State defense to death. However, credit goes to this unit for doing a better job of wrapping up in the second half and not allowing the screen passes to go any further after the catch. It also seemed that Brent Pry got a bit more blitz-happy in the second half, which rattled Purdue QB David Blough and was directly responsible for setting up Brandon Smith’s clutch interception to begin the second half. Smith’s play helped turn the tide of the game, as PSU converted that turnover into seven points to re-take the lead at 24-17, and never looked back.
At times, it seemed like the secondary players were going for the big hit to jar the ball loose, instead of just wrapping up. Much like the linebackers though, the tackling was far more sound in the second half. Given that passing the ball is Purdue’s M.O. I graded this unit on a bit of a curve. Yes, they gave up a deep bomb to Purdue’s D’Angelo Yancey in the second half, but John Reid made arguably one of the more clutch plays of the game right before halftime, by breaking up a well-placed ball to Yancey in the corner of the end zone. Had Yancey come down with the catch, Purdue would have led by a touchdown at halftime, instead of the game being tied, which would have ratcheted up the pressure even further on PSU going into the second half.
Special Teams: A-
Joey Julius put a kickoff out of bounds, but otherwise did a solid job of putting the remainder of them in the end zone, save for one that was returned by Purdue. Blake Gillikin had a brutal 31-yard punt when the game was still competitive, but also nailed a 52-yarder. Tyler Davis returned to perfect form after his first career miss last week, and more importantly, the special teams came up with a YUUGE play early in the second half with the score still 24-17 when they pounced on a muffed punt, which was converted into another seven points for PSU.