All the warranted grumblings aside, at least we can sort of enjoy the fact that I’m writing this after a win for the first time in nearly a month, no?
It wasn’t his best day throwing the ball (RIP 34-game passing touchdown streak), but Trace McSorley did lead the team in rushing with 127 yards on 19 carries and a pair of TD’s. Both of his TD’s were scored on a couple of sick fake-outs, the first one he pump faked on the RPO to Pat Freiermuth, while the second one featured him juking out a hopelessly slow Indiana defensive end on his way to the end zone. Tommy Stevens meanwhile, totally redeemed the Lion package with a textbook TD toss to Freiermuth.
Running Back: A-
It almost feels like a crime against football humanity that Miles Sanders only got 15 carries against an Indiana defense that had trouble stopping the run, especially late in the game when PSU was trying to put away the game up 33-21 with 4:36 left. Nonetheless, 75 yards on the ground and a TD plus being the leading receiver with six catches for 54 yards is a pretty solid outing.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: C-
Freiermuth’s touchdown and Juwan Johnson’s 59-yard reception notwithstanding, it was the same old song and dance: Drops, drops, and more drops. Thankfully, we got to see some of the younger receivers such as Cam Sullivan-Brown and Jahan Dotson get some reps and even gasp catch the damn ball!
Offensive Line: C
This unit didn’t assert its will as much as it was capable of against Indiana’s defensive line, particularly when it came to pass protection, as Trace was sacked three times and rushed a handful of others, forcing him to improvise.
Defensive Line: B-
This is still a very inconsistent unit, particularly when it comes to generating a pass rush, but when the pass rush is there, it sure is a lovely sight to see. Shaka Toney led the way with his four sacks, including a critical one on Indiana’s potential game-winning drive that never should’ve been a potential game-winning drive. Yetur Gross-Matos also had a pair of sacks, himself.
Micah Parsons may have finally turned a corner, being an effective spy on Indiana’s dual-threat quarterbacks, and being all over the field making tackles to prevent further gains. The rest of this unit was grossly underwhelming, especially when it came to stopping the rush.
Nick Scott and Garrett Taylor both recovered fumbles and Scott also added a late interception that in normal circumstances, should’ve sealed the deal for Penn State. John Reid also started to look more and more like his 2016 self and Jonathan Sutherland did an admirable job in Taylor’s place after Taylor was ejected for a targeting call, laying the boom on Indiana receivers. Sutherland will need to pick up where he left off in the first half against Iowa next Saturday, as Taylor will not be available as part of his previous ejection.
Special Teams: D+
Jonathan Thomas’ 95-yard kickoff return (which totally deserved to be a touchdown) and Jake Pinegar going a perfect 2-for-2 on field goals were the lone bright spots in what was an otherwise abysmal day for the special teams. Whether it was continually muffing punts, mishandling an onside kick at the end of the game, the baffling decision to have Blake Gillikin run the ball on a fake punt on 4th and 5 (side note: ban 4th and 5’s), the heat from the fan base on Phil Galiano will not be cooling down anytime soon.