The Nittany Lions aim to continue their winnig ways in the last road game of the regulae season.
(#11)Penn State (8-2, 5-2) vs. Rutgers (4-6, 1-6)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., SHI Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
TV: BTN, 3:30 p.m. - Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), Jake Butt (analyst), Rick Pizzo (sideline)
Weather: A sunny but chilly day with a high of 41 degrees and very low chance of precipitation.
PENN STATE RECORD: 75-36, 9th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 99-51, 12th Year
VS. RUTGERS: 8-0
RUTGERS RECORD: 80-87, 14th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 80-87, 14th Year
VS. PENN STATE: 0-2
Penn State leads the all-time series against Rutgers 30-2, and have yet to lose to Rutgers as a Big Ten member...Sean Clifford became the first Penn State quarterback to gain more than 10,000 passing yards on Saturday, and will look to add to his career total of 10,023...the Nittany Lions have 13 sacks in the past two weeks, picking six against Indiana and seven versus Maryland...Penn State has held five of seven Big Ten opponents to less than 100 yards rushing...the Nittany Lions have won their last four games played on November 19, and hold a 9-4-1 overall record on that date...this includes a Big Ten-clinching victory over Michigan State in 2005, as well as a 39-0 shutout win over Rutgers in 2016.
RUTGERS OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE
The Scarlet Knights may have found the centerpiece of their offense moving forward with new starting quarterback Gavin Wismatt. The 6-3, 220 lb. sophomore has the physical tools and athleticism to become a successful Big Ten quarterback, and is now gaining valuable experience to polish those skills. Wismatt is coming off a strong performance against Michigan State, where he went 20-of-34 for 236 yards passing, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. This was a major improvment from the week prior, where he completed under 50 percent of his passes with three interceptions against the Wolverines.
Wismatt has a big arm, but definitly needs to work on his touch. That will come with time — although this Nittany Lions defense may not be the best unit to work out kinks against.
Aron Cruickshank is the most reliable target at receiver, and has 13 catches over the last two games. Senior Sean Ryan has developed into a big-play threat, and is averaging 15.8 yards per catch and leads the team with three touchdowns through the air. Tight end Johnny Langan is a frequent target as well, and is coming off his best game of the season with five catches for 73 yards against the Spartans.
The Scarlet Knights backfield could have something cooking soon with sophomore running back Kyle Monangai joining Wismatt. Monangai is coming off an exceptional performance with 182 yards from scrimmage and a 6.8 yard per carry average on Saturday.
Penn State’s defense has been playing at a relentless pace since being run over (and over and over) by Michigan on Oct. 15. They nearly shut down a quality Minnesota offense with perhaps the nation’s best running back; held the Buckeyes to just 16 points with nine minutes remaining before a barrage of turnovers helped Ohio State pull ahead; and they hardly allowed Indiana or Maryland to even get to the line of scrimmage, essentailly ending both games as soon as they started. They could get even better this week, with linebacker Curtis Jacobs returning to practice this week after being forced to miss the Maryland game with an injury. Cornerback Joey Porter Jr. was also out of action due to appendicitis, and his status for Saturday remaoins unclear.
PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS DEFENSE
If the Scarlet Knights could find more firepower, they would already be bow eligible - which is basically saying that the defense is doing its job. Rutgers is 21st in the nation in total defense, giving up 324.8 yards per game. They’re allowing under 200 yards in the air per game (good for 21st nationally) and 134.4 yards on the ground (46th).
Deion Jennings is the experienced leader of the group. The versatile senior linebacker leads the team in tackles, and is also an effective rusher and in coverage. Sophomore linebacker Tyreem Powell has a similar skill set, and has the versatility to be used in different ways to create confusion for the offense. Ottawa-native Wesley Bailey has the physical qualities to become a standout defensive end, and leads the team with 3.5 sacks and is second on the team with 6.0 TFLs. Temple transfer Christian Braswell leads the team with three interceptions despite not becoming a starter until the sixth game of the season, including a clutch fourth quarter pick-six against Indiana that helped the Scarlet Knights get their only conference win of the season thus far.
Penn State’s offensive line has been dealing with serious injury issues during the past two games, which has yet to impact the offense too much. However, that could change on Saturday as the Scarlet Knights’ front seven is much more formidable than Terps and Hoosiers. Nittany Lions true freshmen running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen have delighted fans with their development throughout the season. Both have found great success in their first year in Happy Valley, and have become more patient and physical runners with each week. Expect a heavy dose of both to set up the pass, which has been an effective formula for the Penn State offense in recent weeks.
Scarlet Knights kicker Jude McAtamney is 11 of 16 on field goal attempts this season, with a long of 49 yards. He missed both attempts of 50 or more yards this year. Rutgers has an outstanding punter in fifth-year starter Adam Korsak. The Aussie-Style kicker owns a 44.1 yards per punt average, while pinning opponents inside the 20 yard line on 26 occassions, compared to just two touchbacks.
Penn State-35, Rutgers-6
Rutgers is going to come in ready for a fight and a win to define their 2022 season and change the trajectory of the program heading into the future. However, it won’t matter because Penn State has something special going on - in a season where we keep seeing the top 25 reshuffled and recycled week-to-week, the Nittany Lions have been able to play to their potential each time they take the field (Ok - with one outlier). This is a huge credit to the coaches and players. The season is long and grueling, and the fact that we’ve seen all sides of the ball clicking during the stretch is a mighty impressive feat, especially when you consider the injuries facing the Nittany Lions.
This one is easy — Penn State is the better team, they play like the better team, and notch another satisfying victory as the 2022 regular season winds down.