Well, that was an unexpectedly nice, comfy, Senior Day win! Let’s grade this one out, shall we?
When Sean Clifford looked nothing close to 100 percent and eventually left the game, I sure didn’t think I’d be grading this position with an A. 235 yards passing and three touchdowns later from Christian Veilleux, and here we are. I can’t harp on it enough just how clutch Veilleux’s TD pass to Jahan Dotson with a couple of minutes to go in the first half, as it broke a scoreless tie and gave the Lions some serious momentum going into the second half. Based on the poise and decisiveness he showed out there, you would never have guessed that it was Christian’s first live game action in over two years. While I would anticipate Cliff starting at Michigan State next week if he’s healthy, it’s good to know that there is finally a capable backup on the roster that will make the coaching staff less hesitant to throw in the game if Cliff is ineffective.
Running Back: C
Keyvone Lee reached the end zone as he and Noah Cain rattled off a couple of decent runs, with their longest being nine yards. Because of the rushing TD alone, we’ll be generous and give this group a C grade.
Wide Receiver: A
Jahan Dotson may have only had three catches, but he did garner one final TD for the Beaver Stadium faithful in spectacular fashion. Parker Washington made the case to be the team’s top receiver in 2022 with his team-leading six catches for 72 yards and a score. And how about Malick Meiga’s first career TD to complete the first Candian-to-Canadian connection in Penn State history? Meiga was so wide open that it reminded me of yet another Canadian, Akeel Lynch’s 75-yard dash against Rutgers in 2015.
Tight End: B
Tyler Warren had a couple of catches, including a nice 29-yard grab to set up a TD drive, and Theo Johnson also caught a couple of balls thrown his way. Blocking was adequate, as well.
Offensive Line: B
Perhaps no group was ravaged worse by the campus flu bug than the offensive line. Landon Tengwall and Jimmy Christ were thrust into their first bit of game action. Bryce Effner also made his first career start with Rasheed Walker out, and Juice Scruggs started at center in place of Mike Miranda. While things started out rough, once Veilleux entered the game, it seemed like the line suddenly was able to pass protect and even the run blocking was not too shabby at times. All in all, it was an impressive performance from a much-maligned unit, given the circumstances.
Defensive Line: A
I don’t care that it’s Rutgers, if you shut out a team and hold them to 160 total yards, your whole unit is getting A’s across the board. Arnold Ebiketie and Coziah Izzard garnered a sack each and also pressured Rutgers QB Noah Vedral several times throughout the game. With the help of the linebacking unit, the Scarlet Knights were never allowed to establish any real semblance of a rushing attack, either, as Rutgers managed on 67 yards on the ground.
Despite Curtis Jacobs being out with the flu, the linebacking unit held firm, with Ellis Brooks leading the unit in tackles (six) in his Beaver Stadium finale, and Brandon Smith racking up five tackles himself. Jesse Luketa also fared admirably in reverting to his previous position, in what was also his final Beaver Stadium appearance.
Jaquan Brisker led the team in tackles (seven) in his final game at the Beav, while Jon Sutherland came up with an interception in the fourth quarter to help preserve the shutout. Rutgers was held to only 93 yards through the air, which was the second time this season PSU held an opponent to less than 100 passing yards. At least this time, it resulted in a win.
Special Teams: A
Jordan Stout put all of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and made all of his extra points. More importantly, he crushed it in the punting game, pinning Rutgers twice inside their own five-yard line and continually helping PSU win the field position battle before the offense woke up.