The Penn State stock exchange took quite the hit on Saturday at the hands of those pesky Golden Gophers. Should’ve gone full Caddyshack.
Ah, well, regardless the show must go on and we’re back with this week’s look at the stocks.
The unit that has been perhaps most-maligned the last five years or so for the Nittany Lions was very good on Saturday. Sean Clifford generally had a good amount of time to throw and running lanes were out there throughout the game. When you’re not talking about the offensive line much, that’s usually a pretty good sign. The offense put up more than 500 yards against the Golden Gophers and the big fellas up front were a (literally) large part of that.
Brown was awesome as the feature back on Saturday. With Noah Cain out with a lower body injury, the Meadville product stepped up and produced 124 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries, an average of 8.9 yards per carry. He also chipped in with one reception for 17 yards and would’ve had another key catch if not for a baffling offensive pass interference call.
There are going to be a number of people who could show up under stock down but won’t in order to keep this piece from being 1,500 words. But Shorter had a brutal showing on Saturday. On the first possession of the game Shorter was targeted on a slant and although the ball was a bit high, it hit him in both hands and was dropped. Moments later he was underthrown on a deep ball, which was Clifford’s fault, but Shorter struggled to track the ball and instead it was intercepted by a 5-foot-11 defensive back. The redshirt freshman barely played the rest of the way and in the one chance he did get he dropped a perfectly thrown ball for a touchdown.
It’s really hard to throw three interceptions and expect to win a football game. Sure, Sean Clifford had a lot of positives on Saturday, and you could argue that two of the picks involved defensive pass interference (the first of which was an egregious no call despite KJ Hamler getting tackled) and the other his wideout didn’t help him out on, but all three were poorly thrown. Much like Trace McSorley in his first start against Pitt, the game-ended interception was a badly forced throw when all Penn State should’ve been looking to do was get to around the 10-yard line. Clifford took full responsibility for his struggles and will very likely bounce back, but it was a tough look for the Nittany Lions signal caller.
Ricky Slade didn’t play a ton on Saturday, but when he did he struggled yet again. Slade got absolutely destroyed trying to pick up a blitz on the second Clifford interception, which led to a rushed throw. He then had a reception for what would’ve been a hugely important two-point conversion but instead of just running straight and walking into the end zone, he opted to run around two blocks and was shoved out of bounds without scoring.
I’m sure a lot of people would put Ricky Rahne here, but the offense put up 500+ yards and Rahne didn’t turn the ball over three times inside the 10. I’m sure a lot of people would put Brent Pry here, but the defense did make plays in the second half to give the offense chances. But James Franklin had a rough day. I don’t think we need to get into overarching narratives (which will happen regardless), but Franklin just needs to be better. The spike at the end of the half only to then kick a field goal was baffling. In that case the down is far more important than the time, and if you’re going to commit to saving time so you can run then you should also be committing to going on fourth down. It was just a brutal lack of awareness in a game where every play mattered. Franklin is one of the top 10 coaches in the country and should absolutely be kept at Penn State at all costs, but he shoulders some of the blame for this one.