The Nittany Lions marched into College Park on Friday nights with a number of unknowns and walked out with a massive 59-0 victory.
While the some questions certainly still remain, Penn State passed its first road test with flying colors. We take a look at whose stock rose and whose fell after Friday nights blowout win.
Prior to the kickoff of Friday’s came, there were some (albeit a few) who were calling for Will Levis should Clifford have struggled in the first half. He did not. On the night the Penn State signal caller completed 26 of 31 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 54 yards on the ground on seven carries, with all this coming in just 2.5 quarters of play.
Clifford has still yet to play a defense that anyone would call elite, but through four games he’s looked every bit the part of a starting quarterback that could lead Penn State to a 10-win season. He’ll enter homecoming with huge expectations before facing his first big test of the season in two weeks at Iowa.
Nick Bowers is, in a sense, a football miracle. The redshirt senior spent the overwhelming majority of his Penn State career on the injury list, thanks in large part to a massive leg injury which cost him nearly two full seasons. Bowers had a big night on Friday, catching two balls for 70 yards and a touchdown.
He’s firmly entrenched himself as the No. 2 tight end on the depth chart behind Pat Freiermuth and with as much as the tight end is used in Penn State’s offense, has proven to be a real weapon that defenses have to worry about every time he’s on the field.
The Run Game
Penn State’s rushing offense has been much maligned since the Idaho game. Deserving so, depending on who you ask. Against the Terps the #LawnBoyz started to get it going. Including the quarterbacks, Penn State rushed 40 times for 201 yards, an average of around five yards per carry.
The Nittany Lions ability to show balance opened up the field for Clifford and each of the four running backs got their opportunity to shine, with each carrying the ball at least five times.
The Offensive Line
Much of that success for Clifford and the run game can be credited to the big boys up front. The Penn State offensive line was at the center of scrutiny the last few weeks, but the hog mollies were firing on all cylinders on Friday night. Mike Miranda, who seems to have locked down the starting right guard job, was fantastic in both pass protection and the run game. Left tackle Rasheed Walker has gotten better with each passing game, and center Michal Menet has done a better job of calling out blitzes and getting his fellow linemen in check.
With a massive game against Iowa coming up, it’s a nice sight to see the offensive line beginning to form some cohesion.
What else can I say about Jesse Luketa that hasn’t already been said over that last 48 hours? The Canadian, who was filling in for the ejected Micah Parsons, was absolutely everywhere on Friday night. While the box score just shows five tackles, one look at the game film shows how outstanding Luketa was. The true sophomore was fantastic both in coverage and against the run and absolutely laid the lumber on the occasions he did get to the ball carrier. With Parsons, Luketa, Brandon Smith and more, the Nittany Lions may well be set to the have the best linebacker unit in the country next season.