The Nittany Lions walked out of Beaver Stadium on Saturday night with a heart-pounding 28-21 victory over Michigan in front of over 110 thousand fans.
Some Penn State players had standout performances for positive reasons, some less so. We check in on all the stock movement from this past weekend.
The numbers for Clifford aren’t gaudy. He finished just 14 of 25 for 182 yards and had just 17 yards rushing on 11 carries, but he stepped up in the biggest moments. The Nittany Lions signal caller had four touchdowns, three through the air and one on the ground. He made a handful of NFL throws, including the two touchdowns to KJ Hamler, and the last Hamler touchdown came at a time where Penn State desperately needed a big play. Clifford is still working and improving, but you can huge growth almost weekly if you watch closely.
It seems sort of silly to think that Hamler has any room for his stock to improve, but he once again had a big game on the big stage. Penn State and Big Ten fans knew what he brings to the table with his elite athleticism, but now the nation knows. Hamler caught six balls for 108 yards and two touchdowns and could’ve easily had a third on a kick return that got called back.
We were all waiting for Micah Parsons to have a huge game this season, and it came against the Wolverines. While he had no turnover or tackles for loss, Parsons was everywhere for Penn State. He racked up a team-high 14 tackles and was constantly bottling up Michigan ball carriers at or around the line of scrimmage.
Don’t get me wrong, Slade wasn’t incredible or anything for Penn State on Saturday. He had just three carries for 48 yards, but it was his 44-yarder at the end of the first quarter that stood out. Slade hit the hole and took off like a rocket, just narrowly missing splitting the safeties and taking it to the house. This could be a launching point for Slade to rebuild his confidence and shows why the staff isn’t quite ready to bury him on the bench. His speed is a game-changer.
The Wild Dogs
Michigan has a solid offensive line, but the highly touted Penn State defensive line has to be better. The Nittany Lions had just one sack on Saturday and it came from a safety. They also had just three tackles for loss, only one of which can from the defensive line. If Penn State isn’t able to get to Justin Fields next month, Ohio State is going to score far more than 21 points.
Ricky Rahne/James Franklin
As per usual, I felt Rahne and Franklin were much better than most on Saturday. In the first half just about everything Rahne called worked. In the second half when the offense sputtered, much of it came down to Clifford missing throws (like a big one to a wide-open Freiermuth) or the offensive line getting blown off the ball. But the Noah Cain stuff is curious. Again, I understood the rotation in the first half because it would be silly to get out of rhythm just to force feed Cain the ball. But by the third possession of the second half it should’ve been evident that changes needed to be made. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown does a great job of taking away what you want to do, but the Nittany Lions didn’t really try all that hard to establish the power game.