Well, that sure erased some of the bad memories of Maryland lighting up Penn State at Beaver Stadium a couple years ago! What a difference it makes when you have an actual crowd on hand and a team that’s practiced together all offseason long. Anyway, on to the grades...
Sean Clifford did throw a nice little threading of the needle to Brenton Strange for his lone touchdown pass of the game, set a new PSU record in total yards thrown, and became PSU’s first 10,000-yard passer, in what was an otherwise underwhelming performance from him. It was borderline criminal coaching malpractice for the staff to not get Drew Allar into the game until midway through the third quarter and then only having him mostly handoff or throw short passes. Granted, Allar did not look the sharpest throwing the ball in the rainy conditions. Let’s hope we see a lot more from Drew next week against a Rutgers team PSU should be able to beat by 2-3 TD’s with their entire second string playing.
Running Back: A
It sure was nice in between flipping back-and-forth between the game and Dragnet reruns to catch Nick Singleton run for a pair of TD’s out of the 1950’s-era Wing-T formation. The second TD for Nick was very reminiscent of Journey Brown’s TD run in the 2019 Cotton Bowl where he absolutely dragged the defender for the last 20 yards into the end zone. Kaytron Allen also did a fine job of picking up his chunks of yardage to keep PSU’s offense on schedule and move the chains.
Wide Receiver: B
It’s hard to properly grade this unit, given how shaky QB play was. No receiver had more than one catch, with Mitchell Tinsley having the longest reception at 25 yards. Thankfully, with the way the run game, the tight ends, and the defense were playing though, it didn’t matter. Blocking was pretty good, at least, so B it is.
Tight End: A-
Strange had a few catches including his TD, and so did Theo Johnson. More importantly, the tight ends did a tremendous job of blocking, particularly on those pair of fourth-and-one TD runs by Singleton that helped break the game wide open for PSU. A year ago, Ty Howle was drawing a ton of flack as TE coach but he certainly deserves credit where it’s due, as the unit looks much improved from a year ago and is living up to the hype as one of the best such rooms in the country.
Offensive Line: A
Once again, despite the rash of injuries plaguing this unit, the O-line looked solid in run blocking and pass protection. As my pal Marty said last week: Give Phil Trautwein his due credit.
Defensive Line: A+
Maryland QB Taulia Tagovaila got sacked seven times yesterday, and Chop Robinson was responsible for two of those sacks. Amin Vanover, Adisa Isaac, and Zane Durant also got in on the sack party. The D-line absolutely mauled Maryland’s O-line from the very first snap and got into an already not-100 percent healthy Taulia’s head. PSU outgained Maryland 413-134 in total yardage and it was a result of dominant play in the trenches on both sides.
No Curtis Jacobs? No problem! Abdul Carter showed once again why he rocks the legendary No. 11 jersey, leading the team in tackles with seven of them, including a sack, a forced fumble, two QB hurries, and a pass breakup. The way Carter was able to close in and chase down Taulia for the sack reminded me of how Paul Posluszny and that 2005 linebacking corps chased down Troy Smith in the famed White Out win over Ohio State.
Yesterday showed us why everyone keeps saying the secondary is the deepest position of the defense. Despite not having Joey Porter Jr. available, the unit did not skip a beat as they recorded four pass breakups and covered Maryland’s receivers as well as Johnny Cash covered Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” with the end result being a whopping 74 yards passing for the Terps. Ji’Ayir Brown also registered a sack.
Special Teams: B+
Barney Amor’s shanked punt and the kickoff coverage team giving up a 33-yard return (which became even better starting field position for the Terps thanks to an offsides penalty) keep this from being an A-grade, but props to Jake Pinegar for being a perfect three-for-three on field goals, which included makes from 50 and 46 yards to give the Lions a comfortable 27-0 cushion at halftime.