Hey, there! Is your heart rate at a normal level, yet? Obviously, a game like last night’s makes doing these position grades trickier. In general, I try to take into account a position group’s entire body of work when it comes to doling out these grades, so if certain grades seem a little low or high for your liking, now you know why.
Anyway, I know you the real reason you clicked on the link to this post, so let’s get to them, shall we?
It was an overall rough night for Trace, as he was hurried repeatedly, overthrew his receivers at times (when his passes weren’t getting batted down by Iowa defensive linemen who were at least six inches taller than Trace), and also gave up a crucial fumble on a drive where PSU led 15-7 and was seeking to put the game out of reach. However, when his team’s back was against the wall and he absolutely needed to get things done with his arm or his feet, Trace stepped up. The game-winning drive showcased all the reasons why he led his high school to four straight championship game appearances.
Running Back: A
Saquon Barkley may have hurdled his way into the driver’s seat of the Heisman Trophy race by upending Curt Warner’s record for all-purpose yards in a game with 358 total (211 yards rushing on 28 carries and a TD, 94 yards receiving on 12 catches, and 53 yards on three kickoff returns). Seriously, is there anything this guy can’t do? Miles Sanders and Andre Robinson both saw some action as well. Shout-out to Mr. Sanders for his bouncy, Saquon-esque, something-out-of-nothing, six-yard run.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: B-
Much like the quarterback position, this wasn’t the best night for the receiving corps as they were mostly absent. Much like the quarterback position though, this group absolutely stepped up when it had to. Shout-out to Juwan Johnson for grabbing his first collegiate touchdown in the most dramatic fashion possible. Did anyone else see shades of Derrick Williams’ first career touchdown against Northwestern in 2005?
Offensive Line: C-
Poor blocking, especially on the right side of the line, was the story of the night for this unit. It directly led to the critical interception by Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell right before halftime, when an Iowa defender nailed Trace as he was going through his throwing motion. Will Fries will have to grow up quickly in his new role as right tackle, as he spells for an ineffective Andrew Nelson. It’s not just the right tackle position though, as the whole unit can work on being more consistent going forward.
Defensive Line: A-
Shareef Miller channeled his inner Torrence Brown, not just by rocking Brown’s old jersey #19, but also by repeatedly being a terror in the Iowa backfield, most notably when helping to tackle Iowa running back Akrum Wadley in the end zone for a safety. Speaking of Wadley, the D-line played a big role in helping to contain him for most of the night (Wadley only rushed for 80 yards and a TD).
Jason Cabinda led the team in tackles with six of them. More importantly though, this group was not only flying to the ball all night, but made sure to swarm Wadley and along with the D-line, helped keep him bottled up for most of the night.
For a good chunk of the game, this unit kept the Iowa passing game in check. However, the fourth quarter saw Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley begin to find holes in the secondary and move the ball downfield. For the second time this season, Marcus Allen came up with an end zone tackle for a safety, burying Wadley, who was being held down by Miller. When you hold an opponent to less than 200 yards passing, you’ve had yourself a pretty decent game.
Special Teams: B
I don’t know about you, but I’m old enough to remember when Tyler Davis was virtually automatic as a field goal kicker. Davis shanked a 41-yard field goal and had another one blocked, while nailing chip-shots from 19 and 21 yards out. Now, it’s hard to put too much blame on Davis, as the new snapper and holder continue to look shaky. After the offensive line, the field goal kicking unit is the group that needs the most cleaning up.
Otherwise, it wasn’t too shabby of a night for special teams, as kick coverage continued to not allow a big return, Barkley had 53 return yards, and Davis did not send a single kickoff out of bounds. Blake Gillikin also continually pinned the Hawkeyes deep in their own territory early on with his punts, allowing PSU to own the field position battle, and setting up the safety. Troy Apke also came up with a clutch block early in the fourth quarter to preserve PSU’s eight-point lead for the time being.