I sure had forgotten how much more fun these posts are to put together after a win. Let’s do this again next weekend over Michigan, shall we? Anyway, on to the grades!
Normally, throwing for 363 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions would get you an A-grade on here. However, there was something that seemed a bit off with Sean Clifford at times when it came to accuracy and evading the pressure from Maryland’s pass rush. I have a feeling this grade will be the one most hotly debated in the comments section, as you could argue for this one to be higher or lower, depending on your perspective.
Running Back: C
Grading this one on a curve, considering Keyvone Lee’s eight carries for 50 yards (including a long of 15) weren’t too shabby, as he and Noah Cain were able to break off a handful of decent runs at times to move the chains. Other than that though, it was the same old story with the running backs in 2021.
Wide Receiver: A
Let’s not overthink this, folks: Jahan Dotson had the greatest single-game receiving performance ever in Penn State history with his 11 catches for 242 yards and a hat trick of TD’s, carrying the offense on his shoulders in the process. That alone earns the receiving room an A-grade.
Tight End: C
Theo Johnson had a few catches, including one that moved the chains, but it was an otherwise quiet day for this unit after making some noise in Columbus last weekend.
Offensive Line: D
It felt like Penn State’s offense was able to move the ball in spite of the offensive line. Even the pass protection was rather suspect overall, but good enough to give Cliff a chance to connect with Jahan nearly a dozen times.
Defensive Line: B
Arnold Ebiketie and Derrick Tangelo both came up with a sack, but the ability to get pressure on Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa seemed lacking at times. Still, this unit helped keep the Maryland running game in check and made enough big plays to garner a good (but not great) grade.
Brandon Smith was all over the place with a team-leading nine tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, and two pass breakups. Ellis Brooks and Curtis Jacobs (who was back in his home state) balled out, as well. Although Taulia threw for 371 yards, the linebackers (along with the secondary) rarely allowed any yards after the catch with Maryland’s receivers (when Maryland’s receivers weren’t shooting themselves in the foot with several drops).
Jaquan Brisker was solid in containment, turning what easily could have been 10-plus yard gains for Maryland’s skill players into just 2-3 yards with his closing speed and had what should’ve been a game-sealing interception with four minutes to play negated by a defensive holding penalty. Joey Porter Jr. picked up a couple pass interference flags in what wasn’t one of his better performances, but still did enough to get the job done. Major kudos go out to Ji’Ayir Brown, who despite getting picked on in the passing game, came up with the two biggest defensive plays of the game by recovering an absolute derp of a fumble when Maryland was marching in the PSU red zone and later with the game-sealing pick-six.
Special Teams: B
When Jordan Stout is clutch in two out of three phases of his kicking duties, it’s typically the field goals that are the culprit. Not this time though, as it was actually his punting where he struggled, as he had a couple go much shorter than expected, averaging only 35 yards on his six punts. Stout did however, pin Maryland inside their own red zone twice. More importantly, he put all of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and nailed a critical field goal in the fourth quarter to finally put PSU up by two scores, which with the way the PSU defense had been playing, felt like just enough of a cushion to stave off a late Terrapin rally.