Just like Penn State drew it up, am I right? Let’s just go ahead and get to the grades!
He didn’t have the gaudiest of numbers (14 for 25 passing for 182 yards) but Sean Clifford throwing for a hat trick of touchdowns (two of those three to his old pal, KJ Hamler) and running for another one himself on a sweet fake pitch, has to count for something. Most importantly, Cliff didn’t turn the ball over, which isn’t something that can be said for Shea Patterson.
Running Back: C
Aside from a 44-yard scamper from Ricky Slade, which set up PSU’s second score of the night and a couple nice runs from Noah Cain and Journey Brown, there wasn’t much to write home, here. Noah did a good job picking up yards on PSU’s final drive that ended up chewing off the final two minutes of the game. Why we didn’t see more of Noah, especially after PSU jumped out to a 21-0 advantage, is beyond me.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: A-
We could just re-name this position KJ Hamler, because he carried the unit with his six catches for 108 yards and had the clutch first down run on 3rd and 3 with less than two minutes remaining to help PSU clinch the victory. It’s great to see how he and Sean Clifford have such chemistry between the two of them, and it made all the difference when Michigan was furiously rallying back. Pat Freiermuth also had a nice TD grab that was set up by a 37-yard reception by Jahan Dotson the play before. It would’ve been nice to see some of the other receivers such as Justin Shorter or Daniel George get on the stat sheet, and that’s something hopefully Cliff will check down to more often when his favorite targets aren’t open.
Offensive Line: B
Considering how much Michigan defensive coordinator loves to dial up the pressure, the O-line held up okay, with Cliff only being sacked twice. They also opened up a nice hole for Ricky Slade to run through on his big run of the night and were able to stave off defenders long enough for KJ to pick up the critical first down late in the game.
Defensive Line: B-
Yes, they did enough to not let Michigan run wild (at least, when they weren’t gassed). Having sky-high expectations for the Wild Dogs though, it felt like a letdown that they were unable to generate a single sack despite getting pressure at times on Shea Patterson.
Micah Parsons sure had an evening, leading the team in tackles with 14 of them, and acting like a wrecking ball towards anyone he could get an angle on. Cam Brown was also quite active, adding ten tackles of his own.
Tariq Castro-Fields’ interception (which set up a PSU TD) and Garrett Taylor’s sack (PSU’s only sack of the night) prevent this grade from being lower, as it was kind of a tough night for the secondary. While they did a good job tackling in the open field in the beginning, they were clearly gassed in the second half as they started missing those same tackles, while also giving up big pass plays and committing pass interference penalties at inopportune times.
Special Teams: A-
Jordan Stout put all but one of his kickoffs into the end zone and more importantly, Blake Gillikin was once again his old clutch self (minus one punt which ended up being a dud), averaging 44 yards on his eight punts, including a boomer of a 60-yarder. Blake was vital towards flipping field position and forcing Michigan’s offense to have to drive the length of the field to score. KJ had his first special teams TD of the year (a 100-yard kickoff return) called back due to holding, but he did eventually take another one back 40 yards to set up PSU with good field position.
And shout-out to Dan Chisena for absolutely killing it as a gunner on the punt unit, destroying Michigan’s return man on one particular punt. That’s where his track speed also becomes a huge asset.