So, is everyone’s heart rate finally back to normal? It’s time once again for the 2018 debut of your favorite seasonal football post. As always, these grades are extremely subjective and I base on them a combination of personal observation, reading the box scores, and (if I have time) watching the DVR replay of the game. That being said, I await and embrace your hate comments below about how I graded a unit too high and too low. Anyway, let’s get right to it!
Trace McSorley didn’t have his best performance, especially in the first half when it seemed like he and his receivers were out of sync and his own decision-making was questionable at times (I can recall off the top of my head at least two plays where he had plenty of real estate to just take off and run for a big gain, but instead opted to throw). However, when it mattered most, he came up with that clutch run or pass to answer App State’s scoring flurry, showcasing why he was on a bunch of preseason watch lists (including the Heisman Trophy).
Running Back: B
Miles Sanders had a pretty solid debut, running for 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns (including what turned out to be the game-winner in overtime). Ricky Slade also introduced himself to the college football world in dazzling fashion with his 27-yard scamper up the middle (which reminded me of one of Saquon Barkley’s early TD runs as a freshman). Even Mark Allen got somewhat involved in the production. The coaching staff seemed to take too much of a platoon approach though to the running game and didn’t allow any one running back to truly get into a rhythm. If you ask me, I think Sanders should get the bulk of the carries with Slade as the backup.
Wide Receiver: B-
Perhaps I’m being a little harsher on this unit than I should be, but Juwan Johnson’s drops were rather disappointing. Thank goodness for KJ Hamler stepping up though, especially with his clutch TD grab in the final minute of regulation that allowed PSU to eventually win it in OT. De’Andre Thompkins disappeared in this contest, but hopefully he will get it going in Pittsburgh next Saturday.
Offensive Line: C
It wasn’t pretty at times with the new arrangement of Michal Menet under center and Connor McGovern moving over to guard, but this unit did allow for a balanced attack of 204 rushing yards and 230 passing yards from the offense (while allowing only one sack). That has to count for something, right?
Defensive Line: C-
Yetur Gross-Matos and Shareef Miller were alright, but had a quieter opener than we all would’ve hoped for. Robert Windsor was serviceable, but nothing spectacular. Hard to say how much of a difference Kevin Givens would’ve made yesterday, but it will be nice to have him back in the starting lineup at Pitt. The unit overall was underwhelming, but they weren’t a complete tire fire, either (compared with other units on the defensive side of the ball).
Yesterday was a culmination of years of unexpected transfers and recruiting misses biting this unit in the ass. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Micah Parsons, Ellis Brooks, and perhaps even Jarvis Miller are your eventual starters. How about Parsons, by the way? He certainly lived up to his vaunted #11 jersey with the way he flew to the ball carrier.
Your guess is as good as mine as to why the secondary suddenly made App State QB Zac Thomas look like Tom Brady during the fourth quarter, but Amani Orurwariye’s game-clinching interception in overtime saved this unit from getting an F-grade.
Special Teams: D+
The plus is for KJ Hamler’s “NOOOO WHAT ARE YOU DOING...YEAHHH GO GO GO” kickoff return right after App State reclaimed the lead late in the fourth quarter, which set up his eventual game-tying TD reception. No doubt there is plenty more where that came from for KJ. De’Andre Thompkins had a nice 29-yard punt return earlier in the game, and Jake Pinegar nailed his first collegiate field goal attempt and was perfect on extra points.
The rest of the unit though, was rather abysmal, from allowing App State to return a kickoff 100 yards to the house right after PSU went up 7-0 on its first possession of the game, to Blake Gillikin not getting as much power in his final couple of punts (though Blake did have a long of 55 yards earlier in the game), to Rafael Checa only putting two of his six kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback, this group has certainly seen better days.