Just as I like to say “a win is a win” I will say that a loss is a loss. That being said, there were some positives to be found in yesterday’s slugfest that looked early on like it was going to be a boat-racing on Ohio State’s behalf. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Sean Clifford was a pedestrian 10-for-17 for 71 yards and hadn’t done much on the ground when he left the game with an injury. Will Levis came in and put on a performance that my trust colleague Clay referred to in the BSD Slack channel as “Connecticut Tebow” by running straight at the Buckeye defense, gashing them at times, including for a touchdown during PSU’s 17-0 run in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, Levis showed why he is the backup when it came to throwing the ball, as he lacked the awareness of pressure that Cliff has, and also failed to notice receivers who were clearly open and threw into traffic, which led to a back-breaking interception midway through the fourth quarter with PSU trailing 28-17 and driving in OSU territory to try and make it a one score game again. The repeated lack of communication in the fourth quarter between Levis and Michal Menet which led to a few snaps landing right in the crown jewels was no bueno, either.
Running Back: B
Journey Brown had 64 yards on 11 carries (averaging over five yards per carry) and a touchdown, which saw him break a few tackles on his way to the end zone to get PSU on the board for the first time. Noah Cain unfortunately got only one carry for one yard. Journey certainly looked the part of a starter, but it would’ve been nice to see Noah get a few more carries.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: C
Pat Freiermuth and KJ Hamler had their moments, coming up with some big catches to keep the chains moving. Justin Shorter and Nick Bowers also came up with some good catches of their own, but otherwise, this unit didn’t do much that jumped off the page.
Offensive Line: C
Look, Chase Young is an absolute monster and no offensive line is going to hold the guy in check all game long. I’ve read a bunch of criticisms about why the O-line didn’t double up on Young, but all that does it lead to being more susceptible to an untouched linebacker blitz, which is essentially a “pick your poison” situation. I would have given this unit a higher grade, but the poor pre-snap communication in the fourth quarter between Menet and Levis was hard to ignore.
Defensive Line: B+
Yetur Gross-Matos made a triumphant return before having to exit the game in the second half for an undisclosed injury, recording nine tackles and two sacks. The unit did an admirable job, along with the linebackers, against an offensive juggernaut. Yes, JK Dobbins did have 156 yards rushing, but he had to earn it over 36 total carries.
Micah Parsons had himself another solid game, recording 10 tackles (including two for a loss), forced a fumble, and also recovered one himself. Cam Brown also had a fumble recovery to go with his six tackles.
Lamont Wade’s three forced fumbles (only the second Big Ten player to do so since 2000) and 10 total tackles (including a sack) were a career-best performance and help prop up the grade for this unit. While they certainly looked better than in prior weeks, giving up only 188 yards passing, we still saw some of the same problems with pass defending and safety coverage. Do Terry Smith and Tim Banks not teach their guys that it’s okay to turn around and leap, get your hands up, or make some kind of a play on the ball? Credit to Chris Olave for making a brilliant catch early in the fourth quarter to put OSU back up by two scores and stifle PSU’s momentum, but it also seemed like a play where if John Reid had turned around and tried to make a play, he could’ve at least gotten a finger on the ball.
Special Teams: B-
Blake Gillikin couldn’t have picked a worse time to have struggles. Yes, he did pooch punt OSU into their own red zone a couple of times, but he also had a couple of punts he sure would’ve loved to get a mulligan on. Jake Pinegar nailed a 42-yarder towards the student section in wet conditions and Jordan Stout put all four of his kickoffs into the end zone, so kudos where it’s due. It was also interesting to see KJ fair catch a couple of kicks, instead of taking a chance and trying to return them out of the end zone. You would think in a game where they were a heavy underdog, there would be a little more chance-taking.