I was all settled on Yetur Gross-Matos as the game MVP following an outstanding performance against Indiana, where he led the team in tackles with 10, to go along with two sacks. But then Shaka Toney caught fire to help thwart a rally by the Hoosiers with four sacks and two forced fumbles on the final three Indiana drives.
A week later, Gross-Matos has the honor all to himself after another dominating performance in as many weeks. Gross-Matos constantly disrupted Iowa’s offense throughout a wild four quarters of action, and was a major reason why the defense did not allow a single offensive touchdown by the Hawkeyes.
He led the team in tackles for the second game in a row, this time with nine. Of those, seven were solo tackles. He also had two sacks and a spectacular 4 TFLs. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 19 tackles, four sacks and six TFLs in the last two weeks.
These last two performances have made it clear that Gross-Matos has arrived as the latest dominating defensive lineman for the Nittany Lions. As a true freshman, he showed flashes of greatness as a reserve that were a sign of things to come. Now, he’s turned the corner and is quickly becoming one of the better defensive ends in the Big Ten and someone who will clearly be playing on Sundays before too long. Moving forward, he will be someone who offensive coordinators will need to game plan. And should they succeed and keep him in check, it will open the door for others in Penn State’s strong stable of defensive ends to have standout performances and finding their way to the backfield.
Yetur Gross-Matos has arrived, and he’s just going to keep getting better.
CB John Reid- Reid had his best performance since coming back from a knee injury that cost him the entirety of the 2017 season. His coverage was outstanding throughout the day and helped keep the Hawkeyes offense out of the end zone, and his near-pick six for 44 yards was a huge momentum swing after a terrible first quarter for the Nittany Lions. It was an all-around active day for Reid, as he also tied for third with eight tackles.
K Jake Pinegar- The true freshman has clearly gained the confidence of the coaching staff, with the finest performance yet as a true freshman. Pinegar made three field goals of 40-plus yards in sloppy conditions, with a long of 49. It was a huge performance for Pinegar in a game where every score was absolutely vital to come away with a victory.
K Rafael Checa- How about some love for Checa? The true freshman has been a major help for the defense by regularly sending kickoffs to the back- or through- the end zone. He rarely gives the opposition a chance to even consider returning the ball. Checa has become a vital part of Penn State’s special teams as a recent walk-on.
WR DeAndre Thompkins- Thompkins came up with some big catches, finishing with five for 59 yards. He also maintained a tremendous downfield block where he sealed off the sideline, allowing Trace McSorley to scamper downfield for a 51-yard touchdown run.
WR KJ Hamler- The redshirt freshman phenom continues to impress, finishing with 96 receiving yards and averaging 19.1 yards against the Hawkeyes. He also had another clutch kickoff return, this time going for 67 yards that led to a field goal, which forced Iowa to try to go the distance on the last drive to have any hope of coming away with the victory. If not for this return, Iowa could have forced overtime and given itself new life with a chance to win in the extra session.