Yesterday’s game was such a fitting end to what will end up being a season we will all try and forget ever happened. Unfortunately, I am still obligated to grade these things, so here you are, folks:
The “W” grade is for Warrior, which is what Trace McSorley truly was yesterday, scoreboard be damned. When you throw for 246 yards and a pair touchdowns, rush for 104 yards with a touchdown on the ground, and nearly rally your team back from a three-touchdown deficit on a reportedly broken foot, you deserve your own letter grade. We also saw Sean Clifford’s perfect passer rating ruined with a dropped ball on what was a beautifully-thrown deep ball, so that was nice and swell.
Running Back: C
Miles Sanders had a huge 13-yard gain on 3rd and 10 with PSU trying to cut into their six-point deficit late in the game (ironically, on a similar-designed play that got blown up on the infamous 4th-and-5 against Ohio State), but was otherwise quiet in a 13-carry, 51-yard effort. Ricky Slade had a couple nice carries and Journey Brown also got in on the fun, which will be something to keep an eye on for next season, especially if Sanders decides to bolt for the NFL.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: B
De’Andre Thompkins led all receivers in yards with 74 of them on four catches, and KJ Hamler had a nice jet sweep carry for 41 yards, but it was the tight ends Pat Freiermuth and Nick Bowers who shined for this group, with each catching a TD in the fourth quarter that brought life back from the PSU crowd at the stadium. It was also nice to see Justin Shorter get a couple catches in game action, as well as throw a critical block on Hamler’s long carry (which ultimately led to PSU’s first points of the afternoon).
Offensive Line: D+
I realize Kentucky has a ferocious defense, but that is no excuse for Penn State’s supposedly talent-laden offensive line giving up six sacks in game. I never thought I would be viewing Herb Hand in a somewhat positive light, but Matt Limegrover’s inability to field a quality offensive line given the talent at his disposal is beyond disappointing. If James Franklin is truly serious about going from “great to elite” he needs to go out and find himself a new O-line coach, because what’s currently on the staff isn’t cutting it.
Defensive Line: B
Kevin Givens had half of PSU’s four total sacks, while Shareef Miller led the unit in tackles with eight of them, including half a sack. While they did a good job getting pressure on Kentucky QB Terry Wilson, they had their issues at times with containing UK’s stud running back Benny Snell, who was able to break off huge gains and found the end zone a couple of times and run out the clock later in the game.
Micah Parsons led all defenders with 13 tackles and a forced fumble. While he had his mistakes, especially when he whiffed going for an interception, allowing Kentucky to get its biggest pass play of the game to set up a touchdown, it hard not to get excited about the future of the linebacking position with him leading the way. Jan Johnson and Ellis Brooks had their moments but Snell also gave them fits at times.
This unit gave up only 121 yards passing and was solid in run support, especially Garrett Taylor (10 tackles) and Tariq Castro-Fields, who also picked up a sack. As of right now, this unit only loses Amani Oruwariye and Nick Scott, with plenty of talent waiting in the wings in Lamont Wade, TCF, Zech McPhearson, and Jonathan Sutherland, amongst others.
Special Teams: F(ire Phil Galiano already)
One month, including two practice days solely dedicated to special teams to prepare and we were treated to this: A botched fake punt (which led to 3 points for UK), piss-poor punt coverage that led to another 7 points for the Wildcats, a pair of missed field goals (one of which was caused by a garbage snap), some poor decision-making regarding whether to field a punt or let it bounce, leading to less than ideal field position, and another kickoff going out of bounds. Phil Galiano’s unit has been a dumpster fire from the beginning to the end of this season and if any changes are going to be made to the coaching staff this offseason, he needs to be the first one to get pink-slipped.