First of all, congrats to James Franklin on his 100th career head coaching victory. In this day and age of football coaching, that is not a feat to be scoffing at. Also, what if I told you yesterday was the most lopsided margin of victory in the PSU-Rutgers series? Some food for thought, as we go through these grades...
Sean Clifford’s offensive line didn’t do him a ton of favors, but at least one of his two sacks could be blamed on him not realizing he just needed to tuck and run instead of standing in the pocket as the pass rusher was coming right at him. That being said, he did help bring some life to the run game when Rutgers’ defense was zeroed in on stopping Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, even accounting for a rushing touchdown to go with a passing touchdown. Drew Allar played from the mid-third quarter on and was a mixed bag passing (5-for-10 for 42 yards), but did show some ability to run the ball and even got his first career rushing TD.
Running Back: A-
The ground game was slow to get going early on, but as Rutgers’ defense got gassed as a result of their offense not being able to sustain drives, Kaytron Allen absolutely feasted, running for 117 on just 11 carries and a TD, which was an absolute beauty as he pushed the pile forward several yards to barrel into the end zone. Unfortunately, I have to add a minus to the A, due to Nick Singleton’s untimely fumble after a nice run, which set up Rutgers in prime scoring position (which thankfully, they failed to take advantage of). Singleton did make a critical special teams play though, and did rip off a couple big runs in the second half.
Wide Receiver: B
Mitchell Tinsley stepped up as the No. 1 receiver with Parker Washington out, catching five balls for 63 yards. Tre Wallace also had a decent game, catching three balls for 49 yards and looks increasingly comfortable out there.
Tight End: B+
Brenton Strange led the unit in catches with four of them, but it was Tyler Warren who caught the TD pass from Cliff early in the second quarter to give the Nittany Lions their first offensive TD of the game and put the Lions up by double digits for the first time, as PSU began to gradually pull away from the upset-minded Scarlet Knights.
Offensive Line: B-
It was far from their worst performance, but this is also a unit that has seen better days. Yesterday was the first time we saw all the injuries that have piled up start to rear their ugly head, as they had issues especially in pass protection and weren’t much better in run blocking. That being said, they were able to assert their will on Rutgers during the second half when the Rutgers D-line was starting to wear down.
Defensive Line: A
As Patrick said in his post-game recap, this was pure domination from Manny Diaz’s defense, as they racked up a whopping 15 tackles for loss. Rutgers only managed 167 total yards of offense, including just 32 on the ground, thanks in part to the guys up front handling Rutgers’ offensive line.
Manny brought the pressure from his linebacking unit, as Curtis Jacobs and Abdul Carter both had Rutgers QB Gavin Wimsatt seeing ghosts by the second quarter. The linebackers registered all of PSU’s four total sacks, with Jacobs, Carter, as well as Dominic DeLuca and Tyler Elsdon getting involved in the sack party. Kobe King had a scoop-and-score off a fumble by Rutgers tight end Johnny Langan, which put PSU ahead 14-10 and took the wind out of the Scarlet Knights’ upset sails.
Add another two pass breakups plus Johnny Dixon’s interception and Ji’Ayir Brown’s scoop-and-score to another great afternoon for this group.
Special Teams: B+
Nick Singleton had PSU’s first kickoff return for a TD in nearly two years (Lamont Wade against Illinois in December of 2020 was the last time it happened) and gave PSU a serious momentum boost right after Rutgers had drawn first blood with a field goal. Unfortunately, that was followed up by Jake Pinegar explicably trying some sort of coffin corner kickoff which landed in the hands of Rutgers’ best skill player in Aron Cruickshank, who nearly housed the kickoff before being tackled inside PSU’s red zone. It did however, set up Rutgers’ lone TD of the game to put them up 10-7 midway through the first quarter and make PSU fans sweat it out for a bit longer than they hoped.
Punting was also an adventure, as Barney Amor struggled on his first few punts, one of which gave Rutgers good enough field position to drive for a field goal. True freshman Alex Bacchetta got a crack at punting, but wasn’t much better. Amor did eventually nail a 58-yard punt to pin the Scarlet Knights back. Pinegar and Sander Sahaydak both nailed chip-shot field goals.