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Position Grades: Illinois

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Time to rip off the band-aid

Illinois v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Quarterback: C-

At first I was pleasantly surprised when Sean Clifford was announced the starter, but it became clear early on that Cliff was nowhere near his usual self with his misfiring on throws, lack of running, and him seemed more banged up as the game went on with every hit he took. It’s a serious indictment on just how little faith the coaching staff has in Taquan Roberson or Christian Veilleux. If you have a healthy backup situation, you sit Cliff for the entire game and ride it out with your serviceable backup and solid defense.

Running Back: D

The only positive thing I can say is that Noah Cain scored on a 2-point conversion in the eighth overtime that briefly gave PSU fans a false sense of hope.

Wide Receiver: B-

It’s hard to put too much blame on this unit, as they weren’t helped out by lackluster QB play. Jahan Dotson bailed Cliff out on what looked like an arm punt, making a leaping grab that set up PSU’s only TD of the game, which was a 42-yard strike to KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

Tight End: F

Can’t catch, can’t block, can’t even do a Philly Special correctly. ‘Nuff said.

Offensive Line: D

What more is there to say at this point?

Defensive Line: B-

Jesse Luketa and Arnold Ebiketie combined for two total sacks in the rare instance where Illinois got cute and tried to throw the ball. Otherwise, it was clear this unit was sorely missing its heart and soul in PJ Mustipher. The blueprint is out there on how to give this PSU defense fits and that’s to run it down their throats. I shudder to think of what Trey’Veon Henderson will do next week.

Linebacker: B-

They certainly hit hard when they weren’t caught out of position or showing poor gap discipline, which allowed Illinois to run wild all afternoon. Brandon Smith forced a fumble recovery on a sack, which was nice, as were Ellis Brooks’ 11 tackles and Curtis Jacobs’ interception. The front seven had a rough afternoon though and had to be bailed out by the secondary.

Secondary: A-

They did a good job in run support and broke up some deep balls from Art Sitkowski, but oh my, Jaquan Brisker dropping that game-winning interception in the second overtime period just became more haunting than Amani Oruwariye’s dropped pick against Michigan State in 2018.