Well, that was pretty damned fun for at least the first quarter-ish. That’s not to say things were terrible after that, although it was a strange game in the sense that what appeared to be headed towards another Maryland-style laugher of a contest ended up being stuck in a weird kind of limbo where you knew Penn State was ahead by enough points that Purdue and their injury-riddled team couldn’t complete a rally, but were uncomfortable with the fact they weren’t truly pulling away to the point where Will Levis and the backups would play the entire fourth quarter on offense.
Still, PSU won by four touchdowns in the end, which is precisely what the oddsmakers in Vegas expected. So, how to grade such a game? I tried to take the entire body of work into consideration as well as consistency. Not the easiest of things to do, and I’m sure some grades will seem harsher/more lenient than perhaps they should be. But hey, I’m just one man with an opinion, and you know what they say about opinions...
Sean Clifford’s numbers were pretty solid: 20-for-29 for 263 yards, four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) and one interception. However, he lacked in the consistency department today. After getting off to a fast start in the first quarter and change by tossing for 163 yards and the three TD’s, he only had another hundred yards passing for the remainder of the game.
Perhaps that interception he threw on what looked like was going to be a bomb to KJ Hamler to put PSU up 35-0 midway through the second quarter shot his confidence the rest of the game, but he just wasn’t the same after that. Whatever it was, it certainly cost him what was well on track to be another A-level performance. Such is life as a first-year starter.
Running Back: C+
Noah Cain clearly led the way with a tremendous fourth-quarter performance, culminating in PSU’s lone touchdown drive of the second half, putting him at 105 yards rushing. Noah made up most of PSU’s 196 net yards on the ground, but Devyn Ford also had his moments that included a 20-yard gain and seemed to be able to push the pile like Noah did. C-plus may seem a little harsh, but I’d still like to see some more consistency here, and the staff really needs to start riding with the hot hand.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: A
KJ Hamler once again found paydirt, catching a TD on a well-run corner route to the end zone. Pat Freiermuth finally got on the board for the first time since the Buffalo game with a TD catch to put PSU up 28-0 early in the second quarter, although Nick Bowers was the leading receiver amongst tight ends, catching three balls for 66 yards himself.
Then of course, there was Jahan Dotson’s brilliant 72-yard catch in which he caught the ball at midfield, made a couple shifty moves, and followed the convoy of blockers courtesy of his fellow #BankBoyz all the way to the end zone. Definitely the best-performing unit on the offensive side of the ball yesterday, if you ask me.
Offensive Line: B+
True freshman defensive end George Karlaftis seemed to be a pain at times, but credit to the O-line for only giving up one sack and for giving Cliff enough time to make throws. Perhaps the run blocking could’ve been better, but I’d have to re-watch the entire game to figure out if that was the case. I’m sure this will be heavily debated in the comments section, anyway.
Defensive Line: A+
For the second straight week, the Wild Dogs feasted on a weak O-line from the first to the last drive of the game. Collectively, the D-line combined for eight of PSU’s ten total sacks, with Shaka Toney (three sacks) and Yetur Gross-Matos (two sacks) setting the tone early and often.
Along with the D-line, the linebackers balled out, with Micah Parsons having a unit-high five tackles, including two tackles for a loss and a sack. The front seven as a whole did at tremendous job not only making Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer’s life miserable all afternoon, but they also stifled the Boilermakers’ run game, holding them to minus-30 yards on the ground. That last sentence was not a typo folks, although it does include the ten sacks on Plummer, who finished with a whopping minus-65 yards on the ground. Seriously, why the hell does the NCAA count sacks as part of rushing yardage? I could probably write a whole separate post on how idiotic that is.
With the exception of Purdue’s lone scoring drive, where Jack Plummer threw up a 50/50 ball that freshman receiving stud David Bell made a great play on to bring down, and Amad Anderson caught a ball in the corner of the end zone when Joey Porter Jr. failed to turn around in time to take a swipe at the ball, the secondary had a solid game. Lamont Wade led this unit as the team’s leading tackler with 11 total tackles, a sack, and a pass breakup, and was great in run support.
Special Teams: D+
It’s never a good thing when the special teams induce PTSD circa 2018. Jordan Stout did not get the same amount of boom as he had been getting on his kickoffs, uncharacteristically booted one out of bounds and also land a couple others short of the end zone, while Jake Pinegar went full #collegekickers on his 35-yard field goal attempt. Blake Gillikin meanwhile, averaged a paltry 39 yards on his five punts, including a shank.
Even worse though, were the blunders in the punt units: I’m talking about Jonathan Sutherland allowing an erratic punt to hit his leg and be recovered by Purdue, and KJ Hamler muffing a punt (when he wasn’t busy dancing around and getting hit for a loss on his other punt return attempts, save for one which went 26 yards and set up a PSU score). Needless to say, there will be plenty for Joe Lorig to work on this upcoming week.