Yes, Trace McSorley did toss a hat trick of touchdowns and picked up 65 yards on the ground (yes he did throw an interception, but that was on a hail mary to end the first half). However, he overshot his targets countless times throughout the game and just seemed quite off of his game in general, in what was one of his more less-than-stellar performances since taking over the starting job last year. Perhaps we can just chalk yesterday’s performance up to being too fired up to exact revenge on Pitt.
Running Back: B+
Saquon Barkley racked up 133 total offensive yards (88 rushing, 45 receiving) and two touchdowns on a mere 14 carries and one reception. His 45-yard reception that went for a touchdown was critical to busting open a game where PSU was clinging to a 14-3 lead and Pitt was still hanging around, as was his rushing touchdown to start the fourth quarter where he straight bull-rushed over Pitt defenders on his way into the end zone. Miles Sanders’ fumble issues reared their ugly head once again, but thankfully, Pitt was unable to take advantage.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: B-
Stats-wise, this was not the most impressive day for this unit, especially considering the fact that Barkley’s 45-yard TD catch made him PSU’s leading receiver. However, Mike Gesicki caught a pair of touchdowns help PSU race out to a 14-0 lead early on, from which they would never waver. DaeSean Hamilton also caught a clutch 23-yard grab on the sidelines on 3rd and long to keep a PSU drive alive midway through the 4th quarter when PSU was clinging to a 28-14 lead and Pitt seemed poised to the get the ball back with a chance to further cut into the PSU lead (the drive ultimately stalled at midfield, but led to Marcus Allen’s tackle for a safety). Similarly, Brandon Polk’s lone grab was also a clutch one, as it set up PSU’s final touchdown of the day to go up 28-6. It’s also hard to put too much blame on the receivers when their quarterback continually overthrew them.
Offensive Line: B-
Not a terrible performance by any stretch, but the line seemed shaky at times and allowed the Pitt D-line to make life more difficult for Trace and Saquon, even giving up the team’s first sack of the year (on that note: How refreshing is it that after Week 2, I just typed out the fact that PSU has only given up one sack thus far on the season?). They did make up for things later on in the game by paving a path for Barkley to bull-rush his way into the end zone to put PSU up 28-6 early in the 4th quarter. There is still some work do to for this unit, but it is still in a better spot overall than it was this time a year ago.
Defensive Line: B
Shareef Miller was a disruptive force in the Pitt backfield, picking up a pair of sacks in the process. Robert Windsor also picked up a sack, while Kevin Givens and Shaka Toney both had half-tackles for a loss. While you would’ve liked to have seen this group bottle up the Pitt running game more, it’s hard to be too critical of this group.
Jason Cabinda and Koa Farmer had 8 tackles apiece, and Farmer even tallied up a sack, to boot. It will be a while though, before I’m able to unsee the countless number of shovel-passes that Pitt used to catch the linebackers off-guard and pick up good chunks of yardage as a result.
Grant Haley near pick-six on Pitt’s opening drive of the game, helped set up PSU’s fast start. In addition to his four total tackles and solid pass coverage, Haley also picked up a sack on a corner blitz. Meanwhile, Marcus Allen led the team in tackles once again, with nine of them, including the critical tackle of Pitt tailback Darrin Hall in his own end zone for a PSU safety, which crushed whatever hopes Pitt may have still harbored at that point of completing an improbably 4th quarter rally. Shout-outs also go out to Troy Apke, who had PSU’s other interception, and Nick Scott, who racked up seven total tackles. Between these performances, the secondary was easily the best unit on the field yesterday for PSU.
Special Teams: A-
Punting was indeed, winning as Blake Gillikin nailed a pooch punt that landed on Pitt’s 4-yard line midway through the fourth quarter that ultimately led to the safety. It was one of six punts that day for Gillikin, in which he averaged a decent 43 yards per punt. Tyler Davis nailed his lone field goal attempt to ice the game with three and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and put half of his six kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. DeAndre Thompkins didn’t break a long return this week (his longest was only 16 yards), but came awfully close a couple of times. Barkley also returned a pair of kickoffs, with his longest being a 32-yard return.