Hey there Penn State fan, still on cloud nine? Me too. Here are your much-anticipated position grades that probably you probably lost sleep from thinking about last night:
What else is there to say about Trace McSorley that hasn’t already been said? No matter how many times he got hit, no matter how many 4th down conversion attempts backfired, he just kept plugging away and once his offensive line was able to give him enough time to set his feet, it was bombs away to the tune of 384 yards and four touchdowns on 22-for-31 passing (yes, it’s a B1G Championship Game record).
I’ll also leave you with this sick stat:
Here's Trace McSorley on his last nine passes:— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) December 4, 2016
9-of-9, 241 yards, four TDs
Running Back: A
Despite Wisconsin making him the focal point defensively, Saquon Barkley still managed to rack up 83 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead wheel route catch that gave the Lions their first lead of the night, which they never relinquished. Even when he’s not putting up video game-like numbers, Saquon is still good for a handful of video game-like plays.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: A+++
Mike Gesicki opened up the Penn State scoring with an encore performance of his jump-ball touchdown against Michigan State last week, but it was Saeed Blacknall’s six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns that helped spark the rally when things were at their absolute bleakest. Down 28-7 with a minute remaining in the first half, Blacknall caught a routine mid-range pass and turned it into six points, thanks to overpursuit by a Wisconsin defender. He then followed it up with a 70-yard touchdown that paid homage to Allen Robinson highlight reels on PSU’s first play of the second half to cut the deficit to 28-21. Shout-out also goes to DaeSean Hamilton, who led the team in receptions with eight of them for 108 yards, many of them clutch grabs on 3rd down to help move the chains.
Offensive Line: B
Both side of the trenches for PSU were brutalized by Wisconsin’s for most of the first half, but the real turning point was when they were able to start giving Trace more than a couple of seconds to throw the ball. For an injury-decimated unit that had only two of its Week 1 starters at the helm, they sure stepped up in a big way.
Defensive Line: B
While they didn’t consistently get pressure on Wisconsin quarterback Bart Houston and were unable to stuff Corey Clement (who rushed for 164 yards), they were still able to do so at critical moments in the game, whether it was to stop a drive, or hold the Badgers out of the end zone. Curtis Cothran led the way with three tackles for a loss.
While this unit did have issues with containing Clement, Brent Pry did a solid job calling timely blitzes, which led to a sack each for Brandon Bell (who led all PSU tacklers with 13) and Koa Farmer. Perhaps the most underrated critical play of the game was with Wisconsin marching inside the PSU 10, right after PSU tied the game at 28, when Farmer (with the aid of Evan Schwan) got in the face of Bart Houston who had a wide-open Badgers tight end Troy Fumagalli ready to catch the ball and walk in for a touchdown, forcing Houston to misfire. As a result, Wisconsin was forced to settle for a field goal and PSU took the lead on its very next possession.
They did give up a few chunk plays in the air and had some trouble bringing down Clement (but who doesn’t?), but overall, did a good job in coverage on Wisconsin’s receivers. Shout-out to Marcus Allen, whose 11 tackles were second-best on the team.
Special Teams: A
Tyler Davis’ leg was not tested in the dome, as his lone field goal was from 24 yards out. Blake Gillikin only punted twice, but averaged a solid 49 yards with a long of 53. Joey Julius didn’t hit anybody, but he did put four of his seven kickoffs into the the end zone for touchbacks and more importantly, didn’t send any of them out of bounds. Nothing real notable happened with the return games but it’s not like you truly care about that at this point, right? This unit was just fine last night.