Well, that was fun. It’s also left me eating some delicious crow after predicting that the Nittany Lions would lose. But following a 45-17 blowout victory over Minnesota in the White Out, the Nittany Lions are now 6-1 on the season.
Sean Clifford started Saturday night on a low note. Through three possession he had thrown an interception and the Nittany Lion offense had a pair of three-and-outs as boos rained down on Clifford and the offense.
To his credit Clifford settled in and put together a strong game. The sixth year senior was 23/31 for 295 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception. Drew Allar got some 4th quarter run and completed one of two attempts for 9 yards. Even with his strong game Clifford still demonstrated poor pocket presence and made some poor throws at time, knocking this grade down to a B.
Running Back: A
Saturday night we saw Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen continue to flash their elite skill set and potential. Singleton averaged 6.1 yards per carry and Allen averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Singleton rushed for two scores and Allen had one. Singleton flashed his elite burst and speed while Allen was bulldozing over Golden Gopher defenders. Tank Smith also got in on the fun with four carries for 13 yards. All in all, it was a very good night for the running backs.
Wide Receivers: A
Saturday was undoubtedly the best game of the season for Penn State’s wide receiver. For much of the season Penn State’s wide receivers have struggled to get separation and make contested catches. Saturday night, they routinely stepped up and did just that. None more evident then Mitchell Tinsley’s one handed catch down the sideline and Parker Washington’s terrific leaping, full extension catch in the end zone. Penn State’s receiver finished the game with 12 catches for 145 yards and a pair of scores.
Tight Ends: A+
Much as was the case for the wide receivers, this was the best game of the season for the tight ends. While Brenton Strange was kept in check, both Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren had their best games of the season thus far.
Penn State tight ends combined to haul in seven catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. This included a game high five catcher from Johnson. Warren also had some terrific blocks on the night, including one that helped spring a big gain on a screen to Singleton the play before Warren caught his touchdown. The combination of Warren and Johnson also helped collapse the left side of Minnesota’s defensive line on Singleton’s first touchdown run.
Offensive Line: B+
Early in the game Penn State’s offensive line was getting beat at the point of attack. Well, starting with their third drive that would change as the offensive line helped plow the way for 175 yards rushing as the Nittany Lions averaged 5.1 yards per carry. The pass protection was strong throughout the night. Phil Trautwein’s group was also without starting left guard Landon Tengwall and the right side of the offensive line was in flux as Sal Wormley was in and out of the game and Caedan Wallace got banged up in the second half.
Defensive Line: A
It was a strong night for the defensive line and one hell of a bounce back outing, one they were in dire need of after what happened in Ann Arbor. More times than not the defensive line won against Minnesota’s offensive line which was the driving force behind the Nittany Lions allowing just 3.6 yards per carry, and they did it without Chop Robinson who has been arguably their best defensive lineman this season. Penn State is still struggling to get home for sacks as they recorded just one on Saturday night. However, they continue to pressure and terrorize opposing quarterbacks leading to poor throws and causing chaos.
This was a great bounce back effort by Penn State’s linebackers. After being exposed by Michigan and looking like a liability, the Nittany Lion linebackers did a great job aghast Minnesota of being in position and filling holes. Curtis Jacobs had 14 tackles in the best game of his collegiate career, Abdul Carter and nine tackles and continues to look like a potential future All-American, Jonathan Sutherland had one of the best games of his career, and Dom DeLuca blocked a punt. They got run over on occasion and had some issues in coverage, but all in all it was a good game for the linebackers.
Penn State’s secondary, which is one of the best in the country, was lights out on Saturday night. Entering the game the Nittany Lions led the country yin pass breakups, and recorded six more on Saturday night. Ji’Ayir Brown had an interception, too.
Even when Minnesota complete the rare chunk pass play it was due to a terrific play by Minnesota’s receivers, not poor coverage by Nittany Lion defensive back. Penn State defensive backs helped to hold Athan Kaliakmais to a 9/22 night.
Special Teams: A
There was little to say about the special teams unit, which tends to be a positive. Barney Amor averaged 42.3 yards per punt, while Jake Pinegar was 6/6 on extra point attempts and was successful on his lone field goal attempt. Minnesota only returned two kicks, averaging less than 20 yards per return which included a drive that started inside their own 20 after the decision was made to return a kick.