Welcome back to another season of the position grades! Per usual, I will overrate/underrate a particular position, forget to mention [insert player/moment here], and in general, leave you walking out of these posts unsatisfied and yearning for more...
But seriously folks, how great is it to have college football back and for PSU’s season opener to be a relaxing one, as opposed to the heart attack-inducer it was last year? Much like yesterday’s game, the only drama with these grades will be whether it’s a Straight-A report card. Let’s find out, shall we?
Sean Clifford was clearly playing with those first-time starter jitters in the early going, as evidenced by him overthrowing a wide open Pat Freiermuth, that would’ve given PSU its first touchdown much earlier in the game. Once he calmed down however, he starting dropping dimes, garnering a total of three TD’s on 280 yards. Surely, there is plenty for him to work on, but it was a solid overall debut.
Running Back: A
When all five of the running backs that see game action also finish drives in the end zone (some multiple times: Looking at you, Journey Brown and Noah Cain), that’s always going to lead to an A-grade for the running back unit. Shout-out to Devyn Ford on making his collegiate debut in fashion with his 81-yard TD run. An even bigger shout-out however, goes out to one Mr. Nick Eury, who gave us this GIF-worthy moment:
Wide Receiver/Tight End: A
It sure seems like the drops from last year are nothing more than a painful memory that we’re all trying so hard to erase from our brains at this point. Whatever it was Gerad Parker did from the time he arrived in Happy Valley this past Winter, it seems to be working. 11 different WR’s/TE’s caught a pass against Idaho. KJ Hamler led the way with four catches for 115 yards and a pair of TD’s. Shout-out to Justin Shorter for sprinting down the field on Ford’s TD run and throwing a block to help secure the TD.
Offensive Line: A
Whether it was opening up nice holes for The Platoon of running backs to go through, or giving Clifford ample time to throw the ball, the O-line looked solid. We shall see how they handle a defense with a pulse, but it was good to see them fend off a clearly inferior opponent.
Defensive Line: YOU get an A-plus!
Linebacker: And YOU get an A-plus!
Secondary: And YOU get an A-plus!
But seriously, the defense was absolutely lights-out. When your unit records more sacks (seven) than your opponent has first downs (five) and you hold your opponent to 145 total yards of offense, you know just about everything is going right. I know Idaho is a bad FCS team, but the PSU defense looked outright dominant, hard-hitting, and athletic, making James Franklin’s comments about how this defense was the fastest group he’s ever coached look far less hyperbolic. Shout-outs to Yetur Gross-Matos and his 2.5 sacks, John Reid (a sack and an interception), and Lamont Wade, who in his first career start, racked up a team-high four tackles.
Special Teams: B+
Joe Lorig’s hard work to rectify what was easily the worst unit from last season seems to be coming to fruition. Jordan Stout was every bit the kickoff specialist he’s been hyped up to be, sending kickoff after kickoff into the end zone (all 13 of them), demoralizing the poor souls on Idaho’s return team who dreamed about taking one to the house in front of 107,000 fans at Beaver Stadium. Stout also nailed a 53-yard field goal to give PSU some points in early going while the offense attempted to find its rhythm. Meanwhile, Jake Pinegar was perfect on his pair of field goal attempts, and KJ Hamler had a few decent punt returns that gave PSU great starting field position.
That being said, there are still a few kinks to be worked out. Mac Hippenhammer had a pair of muffed punts, one of which ultimately cost PSU the shutout. Blake Gillikin only saw the field twice, but both of his punts left a little more to be desired. There also appeared to be a severe case of miscommunication on one of the kickoff returns where Jesse Luketa ran all the way over to where Journey Brown was about to catch the ball (presumably, to try and return it) and bumped into Brown while fair catching the ball, himself. Thankfully, Jesse did not fumble the ball away. Unfortunately, these miscues cost PSU an A-grade at this spot and thus, cost them their first-ever Straight-A report card since I took over this segment a few years back.