Christian Veilleux impressed
From Penn State’s very first possession it was clear that Sean Clifford was nowhere near 100% today. Between lingering injuries and the flu bug, the Nittany Lion signal caller was struggling. Early in the game he got knocked out and things looked bleak for the Nittany Lion offense.
However, rising from the ashes was true freshman Christian Veilleux. Making his collegiate debut the Canada native showed why he was a four-star recruiting coming out of high school that was pursued by the likes of Clemson before committing to the Nittany Lions.
Veilleux hung in the pocket, read the defense, went through his progressions and was not afraid to hang in the pocket and take a hit. Veilleux used his legs to keep plays alive and pick up first downs. In the intermediate passing game Veilleux’s accuracy was impressive and he flashed a good deep ball at times as well.
When his day came to an end Veilleux was 15/24 for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns to a trio of receivers. He also rushed for 36 yards. James Franklin and his staff could not have asked for a better performance out of Veilleux today.
Penn State is Canada’s team
With Penn State having landed at least one Canadian player in four of their last five recruiting classes one has t assume the Nittany Lions would become popular north of the border. Well, after Saturday’s victory it is clear they are Canada’s team.
It all starts with Veilleux. While he played his high school ball in the states he is a Canadian native and his star could not have shined much brighter in his collegiate debut. Part of his success stemmed from throwing to fellow Canadians Theo Johnson and Malick Meiga, which included a 67-yard touchdown pass to Meiga. This first touchdown reception of Meiga’s career.
Defensively Jesse Luketa stepped up for the Nittany Lions today by sliding back to linebacker with Curtis Jacobs out. Three-year special teams captain, and Canadian native, Jonathan Sutherland recorded his first career interception in the victory as well.
Penn State truly is Canada’s team.
Penn State has been spoiled at punter
Dating back to Blake Gillikin’s freshman season in 2016 the Nittany Lions have been spoiled with great punting. Gillikin is now nuking balls on Sundays for the New Orleans Saints and his replacement, Jordan Stout, has been one of the best punters in the Big Ten the past two seasons.
Saturday afternoon Stout punted the ball 8 times averaging 42.9 yards per punt. Stout was able to pin the Scarlet Knights inside the 20-yard line with 6 of his punts and he had a long of 53 yards.
Early in the game when the Nittany Lion offense was struggling Stout’s punting played a big role in keeping Rutgers off the board. The Scarlet Knights were consistently dealing with poor field position while facing a great Nittany Lion defense. That is not a good combination for any team, but especially not for a team with the offensvie struggles of Rutgers.
Next season Stout will join Gillikin as nuking balls on Sunday afternoons. Thankfully for the Nittany Lions, the top rated punter in the 2022 recruiting class, Alex Bacchetta, who attends the same high school as Gillikin did, is set to sign with the Nittany Lions next month. So the excellent punting likely will not end any time soon.
Give some kudos to the patchwork offensive line
Penn State was without starting center Mike Miranda and offensive tackles Rasheed Walker and Caedan Wallace on Saturday afternoon. Despite this, the Nittany Lion offensvie line made it work and put together their best game in quite a few weeks.
True freshman Landon Tengwall played a solid game at right tackle in his first career appearance. Juice Scruggs, making his first career start at center, played his best game of the season. Anthony Whigan, while not spectacular, still had a nice bounce back from his dreadful performance when he made his first start against Wisconsin week 1 only to be benched after 3 series.
On the day the Nittany Lions rushed for 149 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per carry. While this may not sound like anything great, it came against a Rutgers defense that entered the day ranked in the top 50 nationally in total defense and it came with this patchwork offensive line.
With how much Penn State’s offensive line has struggled this season there was no one expecting them to put together anywhere near the effort they did today, especially with three starters out. I have been as critical as anyone has been of Phil Trautwein but he and his line deserve credit for the way they played on Saturday afternoon.