Well, that was a delicious bowl turtle soup, wasn’t it? Anyway, on to the grades!
Trace McSorley threw a pair of touchdown strikes to Mike Gesicki and DeAndre Thompkins, respectively but was most effective on the ground, carrying the ball 18 times and amassing 113 yards and a touchdown, himself. More importantly, Trace had zero turnovers for the second straight game. Suffice it to say, this was easily Trace’s best and most complete performance of his career (thus far).
Running Back: A
Saquon Barkley looked like his old self, running all over the Maryland defense to the tune of 202 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown. That touchdown of Barkley’s was arguably the most clutch play of the game, as Maryland had just scored a momentum-shifting touchdown to cut Penn State’s lead to 17-14 with just under a minute to play in the first half when Barkley took the handoff from just past midfield and raced 45 yards to the house to give the Lions a 10-point cushion going into the locker room. Saquon’s lost fumble in the second half with PSU in the red zone up 24-14 and looking to essentially put the game away in the third quarter was mostly due to a great play by Maryland’s Will Likely to strip the ball while Saquon was fighting for yards.
Also, how about Miles Sanders finally getting his first collegiate touchdown run? You could tell from the way James Franklin and staff congratulated him that they couldn’t be happier for the kid, especially given the fumbling issues that had plagued him as of late.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: A-
Only three different receivers caught a total of 10 balls for the Nittany Lions. However, they made those catches count, particularly Thompkins and Gesicki, who hauled in 70 and 9-yard touchdown passes from McSorley, respectively. Chris Godwin, who played such a pivotal role in last week’s rally against Minnesota, did not record a single catch, ending a 19-game streak of having at least one catch in a game...I’ll just go ahead and blame the weather for that one.
Offensive Line: A-
If it weren’t for a few ill-timed holding penalties that erased big gains or touchdowns, I would’ve given this unit a full-fledged ‘A’ which is something that would’ve seemed unfathomable not too long ago. Also, your heart has to go out to Andrew Nelson, who appears to be done for the year with yet another debilitating knee injury.
Defensive Line: A-
The ‘Wild Dogs’ were able to break through and get pressure on Perry Hills and Tyrone Pigrome regularly, accounting for three of the team’s four total sacks. More importantly, they did a solid job in containing the run, which played a large part in limiting the Terps’ vaunted rushing attack to just 170 yards on the ground.
Koa Farmer stepped in as a starter and looked like a seasoned veteran, even garnering his first career sack. Meanwhile, Brandon Smith led the team in tackles with 14 of them, and added his first career interception, to boot. The 69-yard screen pass touchdown allowed early in the game as well as some spotty tackling prevents this from being a higher grade, but overall, a solid job by this unit.
69-yard screen pass touchdown aside, there are nothing but positive things to say about the way the secondary played. Big shout-out to John Reid, who came up with several clutch pass break-ups throughout the game, negating any hopes of a Terrapin rally in the second half.
Special Teams: B
Tyler Davis remained perfect on all kicks, nailing four extra points and a field goal. The return game didn’t yield anything particularly noteworthy, but nothing disastrous, either.
Whatever was bothering Blake Gillikin yesterday, let’s hope that the bye week gives him a chance to fully heal, because he was not his usual self yesterday and field position will be critical against Ohio State. Gillikin shanked a punt and had another one blocked before being benched in favor of Daniel Pasquariello, who fared only slightly better (37.5 yards averaged on two punts).
Joey Julius also took one for the team for the second straight week, as Maryland’s Isaiah Davis laid a cheap shot on him, right after Julius sent the opening kickoff of the second half out of bounds. The idiotic penalty by Davis cost his team great starting field position at Maryland’s 35-yard line and allowed Julius a do-over from midfield, which he easily sent past the end zone for a touchback.