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Position Grades: Michigan State

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(Sigh) Only one more of these.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

I could probably do a whole separate post about this, but I’m getting major 1992 vibes from this season. Much like this year, the ‘92 squad featured a stud receiver (O.J McDuffie), started out 5-0, and was ranked in the Top 10 before losing a close game at home to a second-ranked Miami (FL) team from which they never truly recovered, as they went on to go 2-5 the rest of the season, with their only wins after coming against a mediocre West Virginia team and a lousy Pitt team. The following two years, the program went 10-2 in 1993 and 12-0 in 1994, during their first two years as a Big Ten member. Now, I’m not saying 2022 and 2023 will resemble ‘93 and ‘94, but my point is that trying to predict how future seasons will go can be a fruitless exercise (for better or worse), and nothing is absolute or guaranteed.

Oh, that’s right: You’re here to see me grade the positions, not wax nostalgic with you. Very well, then...

Quarterback: B+

Kudos to Sean Clifford: 23-of-34 for 313 yards and a hat trick of passing touchdowns in a blizzard is quite impressive. Would’ve been nice if he had taken a few less sacks, though. Why Mike Yurcich didn’t go full air raid yesterday when it was clear that Michigan State’s secondary was ripe for the picking is beyond me.

Running Back: D

Keyvone Lee ripped off a nice 33-yard gain and his overall stat line of 15 carries for 79 yards (averaging nearly 5 yards per carry) was okay given how porous PSU’s run game has been all season long. However, his fumble, plus John Lovett fumbling a kickoff return bring this grade down to a D.

Wide Receiver: A

If this was indeed Jahan Dotson’s final game in a PSU uniform (not sure yet if he will sit out the bowl game), he sure went out with a bang, catching eight balls for 137 yards and a pair of TD’s. Parker Washington also had a solid outing with four catches for 60 yards and a TD. It’s not this unit’s fault that the coaching staff was stubbornly insistent on having a “balanced” attack.

Tight End: B-

Brenton Strange had four catches for 63 yards and found himself being targeted a good amount. Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren however, were rather quiet.

Offensive Line: D

Gave up four sacks and were their usual shitty selves with run blocking. Without naming names, let’s just say that certain players being gone after this year will feel like “addition by subtraction.”

Defensive Line: C

While they were able to get pressure on Michigan State QB Payton Thorne at times, the D-line was never able to get home and get the sack. It was also quite disappointing to see them fail to bottle up Kenneth Walker when they had Sparty trapped near their own end zone early on, but became less leaky as the game went on. Still, this unit as well as the rest of the defense had easily their worst performance of the season, allowing 30-plus points for the first time (Ohio State scored 33 points, but seven of those points resulted from a scoop-and-score)

Linebacker: D

What are you if you struggle to cover and struggle to tackle? Just an uncharacteristically bad game from the linebacking corps.

Secondary: C-

Daequan Hardy’s pick-six is the only thing preventing this unit from getting a D grade. I lost count just how many times this group missed tackles and allowed Sparty to convert big pass plays to move on the chains on 3rd/4th and long situations. Johnnie Dixon allowing that game-sealing 4th and 15 touchdown grab is now seared into my memory.

Special Teams: D

Jordan Stout’s kickoffs and punts were fine, but missing an extra point and a chip shot field goal (to which, surprise...those four points left on the field would’ve made up the three-point deficit) were inexcusable. At least we got proof of life from Jake Pinegar on PSU’s last extra point. Then of course, there’s John Lovett’s fumble right after Sparty’s 4th and 15 touchdown pass which was just added insult to injury.