It was a rough day for Sean Clifford, who while he threw a nice TD strike to Brenton Strange, also threw an ugly interception (which thankfully, Ji’Ayir Brown was able to bail Cliff out on by returning the favor on Northwestern’s ensuing drive) and misfired on other throws he had no business misfiring on, even in horrible weather conditions. I’ll put on the Captain Obvious hat and say that he will need a 180-degree turnaround in performance two weeks from now in Ann Arbor.
Running Back: C
It’s a real shame that the four lost fumbles will overshadow the fact that the running backs themselves were able to pick up decent chunks of yardage, totaling a net of 220 rushing yards. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen had 21 carries each with Singleton racking up 87 yards and a TD, while Allen added 86 yards himself, and Keyvone Lee wasn’t too shabby with 41 yards on his ten carries. Unfortunately, with each of the backs taking turns coughing the ball up (Singleton doing so twice), what probably would’ve been at least a B+ grade takes a major, major, hit.
Wide Receiver: C
Parker Washington had a good day, catching four balls for 73 yards, including a 43-yard bomb that set up a crucial field goal early in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, it was a quiet afternoon from a unit that dealt with some drop issues (semi-understandable due to the weather) and quarterback issues (not able to get it to an open man).
Tight End: B
Strange had his TD catch and also was open as a check-down option a few different times for Cliff, who couldn’t be bothered to do so. Theo Johnson got on the stat sheet with an eight-yard reception, himself.
Offensive Line: A
Easily the best performing unit on the offense in this game, as they opened up holes for the running backs to run through and protected Cliff when he dropped back to pass.
Defensive Line: A
When they weren’t helping to stifle the run game (Northwestern had 31 net rushing yards), they were batting down passes, getting pressure/sacks, and coming up with goal line stands at critical moments. PJ Mustipher had arguably his best game of the year thus far, leading the team in tackles with eight of them. Nick Tarburton also came up with an absolutely clutch strip-sack which killed a golden opportunity for the Wildcats after recovering a fumble at PSU’s 30-yard line.
The middle of the field is still ripe for exploitation, but despite Tyler Elsdon and Kobe King getting hurt, the unit was able to help stifle the Northwestern ground game and hold their offense check. Curtis Jacobs also fell on a Northwestern fumble.
Brown’s interception helped set up PSU’s first TD of the game, as the “No-Fly Zone” accounted for five of the team’s eight total pass breakups. For those of you keeping track at home, PSU now has a nation-leading 49 pass breakups through its five games, thus far. There was a bit of a lapse on Northwestern’s lone score of the game, when Malik Washington slipped behind the defense for an easy catch-and-score. Otherwise, another tremendous game from this unit and really, the defense as a whole.
Special Teams: A-
Barney Amor continues to make his case for the Ray Guy Award, as he helped pin the Wildcats inside their own red zone on four of his five punts. Jake Pinegar also nailed a crucial 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to give PSU a bit of breathing room with a two-score lead.