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Position Grades: Rutgers

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It may not have happened in the manner fans expected, but at the end of the day, it was a pretty good all-around performance on both sides of the ball.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback: B

Trace McSorley looked off at times throwing the ball, as there were a couple of balls that if thrown better, would’ve resulted in touchdowns. First, there was a pass to Saquon Barkley, who beat his man on a wheel route towards the end zone that floated in the air for too long, and wasn’t able to be hauled in. Next, there was a pass to a wide-open Miles Sanders up the middle in the red zone that should’ve been six points, but the ball floated past Sanders’ hands. Now, perhaps Miles should’ve reeled that pass in, but it didn’t help that the ball didn’t appear to be thrown in a manner where it would “hit him in the numbers.”

With that being said however, Trace still racked up 210 yards passing for a touchdown, and also used his feet to keep drives alive for the Nittany Lions. His leadership out on the field continues to remain a constant, no matter how difficult things get. Tommy Stevens also got in on the action and scampered for a touchdown, himself.

Running Back: B+

Saquon Barkley was quietly having a decent night, having racked up 92 yards on 16 carries, when he left the game after taking a hard hit midway through the third quarter. Thankfully, it sounds as if Saquon is going to be good to go for next week. In the interim, Andre Robinson and Mark Allen both found the end zone, with Allen doing so in a very highlight-reel-worthy manner. Miles Sanders also racked up 85 yards on five carries, including a 57-yard scamper that he nearly took to the end zone. It was nice way for Miles to make up for fumbling away the opening kickoff and gain some confidence back.

Wide Receiver/Tight End: C

You can throw some of the blame on the less-than-ideal weather conditions and the fact that Trace wasn’t as sharp on his passes, but there were once again some issues with dropped balls or passes that you would expect to be reeled in, but weren’t. Mike Gesicki led the way with five catches for 47 yards (including a grab from an improvising McSorley on 4th and inches to keep a drive alive) and DeAndre Thompkins had 40 yards on four catches.

Offensive Line: B

This was a unit missing four key contributors from the start of the season. While they looked a little shaky at times, perhaps Rutgers was the right opponent for this group to gain experience and some confidence. They did a decent enough job of opening up lanes for Barkley and the other tailbacks to run through and didn’t allow Trace to get sacked.

Defense: A

Normally, I would break this out into the defensive line/linebacker/secondary position groups. However, when you not only shut out an opponent, but also hold them to 87 total yards of offense, the entire defense deserves praise, because it takes a complete team effort on the parts of each defensive unit to put together such a dominating performance. 30 different players on PSU were credited with tackles or half-tackles, including 10 tackles for losses and a pair of sacks (shout-outs to Brandon Bell and Evan Schwan for garnering said sacks). This unit set the tone from the very beginning, when Rutgers recovered the opening kickoff inside PSU’s 20 yard line, only to get sent backwards, forcing a 45-yard field goal that was shanked. It was the closest Rutgers would come to scoring that night.

Special Teams: A-

The disastrous opening kickoff and a botched hold on an extra point aside, it was a pretty good night for special teams. Tyler Davis was money, going a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals despite the rain and kicking against 20 mph winds. Juwan Johnson’s blocked punt early in the third quarter with PSU still clinging to a 9-0 lead set up a very short field that finally allowed the Lions to get their first touchdown of the night, deflating whatever slim upset hopes Rutgers had been hanging on to. Only four of Joey Julius’ nine kickoffs went for touchbacks, but that was due to kicking against the wind for half the game.