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Position Grades: Northwestern

Despite winning handily in the end, the grades are still a mixed bag

Penn State v Northwestern Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Quarterback: B-

Drew Allar just seemed “off” for most of the game, whether it was overshooting his receivers, or not being in sync with them on crossing routes, you could tell something just wasn’t right. It’s quite baffling that it took until PSU had a 34-13 lead in the fourth quarter for Mike Yurcich to start dialing up some downfield shots, but it was good to finally see him try (now please do that a little earlier in the ball game?) That being said, if Drew’s floor is 55 percent passing with a touchdown and no turnovers, then sign me up! Beau Pribula came in for the final few minutes and had a lovely fake run that he used to throw a pass down the middle to Trey Potts for his second career TD pass, which allowed PSU to front door cover the 26.5-point spread.

Running Back: B

I’m sorry, but it’s time to hit the panic button on Nicholas Singleton. Averaging just under four yards a carry against the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten is a bad sign, as he appears to just lack that burst of explosiveness he so very much had as a freshman last year. It’s hard not to wonder if the strength and conditioning coaches put a little too much weight on him to the point where some of his speed was sacrificed? That being said, Singleton did have a rushing and receiving TD, so it wasn’t a bad day by any means, but you sure hoped to see a little more at this point.

On a positive note: How about Trey Potts? Stepping in for Kaytron Allen, who left the game in the second quarter with an injury, Potts looked fresh, fast, and powerful, scoring PSU’s first TD of the game and later catching a TD pass from Pribula. Regardless of Kaytron’s health, Potts absolutely need to get more playing time going forward.

Wide Receiver: C+

KeAndre Lambert-Smith led the way in receptions with four catches for 86 yards, but it was rather quiet once again beyond him. Hopefully, Tre Wallace is able to get some run coming off the bye week against UMass and re-establish himself as that solid No. 2 receiver to KLS that he was against West Virginia.

Tight End: B-

Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren had a pair of catches apiece, on what was a more quiet afternoon for the tight end room. Theo committed a false start penalty on 4th and 1 that potentially could have ruined what was PSU’s first scoring drive of the game.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line was fine enough in pass protection, although the run blocking seemed to leave a bit more to be desired considering this was the worst run defense in the Big Ten. Here’s to hoping JB Nelson’s injury wasn’t as serious as him getting carted off the field would leave you to believe...

Defensive Line: A

Seven total sacks and 45 net rushing yards given up is a job well done for the front seven! Five of the seven sacks were from members of the D-line, as Zane Durant and Dani Dennis-Sutton led the way in tackles (particularly in tackles for losses), but the whole unit did a fine job of getting in Northwestern QB Ben Bryant’s face all day and didn’t allow him to get comfortable back there.

Linebacker: A

A strong day for the front seven saw Kobe King lead the linebackers with four tackles, two of them for a loss, including a sack. There were a couple times where Bryant was able to escape the pressure right up the middle and with nobody spying on him, was able to scramble for a first down, but otherwise, no qualms here.

Secondary: A

Oh, you know: Just another Saturday at the office for the secondary. Only 122 yards given up through the air with the longest being a 22-yarder. Shout-out to Daequan Hardy for his interception of a Brendan Sullivan pass that looked like Sullivan was literally just gifting him the ball.

Special Teams: C

The Good: Alex Felkins’ field goal kicking and David Nwosu’s kickoffs

The Bad: Kickoff/punt coverage

The Ugly: Kickoff returns (thank goodness Singleton’s fumbled opening kick led to just a field goal)

Coaching: B

The offensive play calling was certainly infuriating at times with the lack of downfield shots taken in the pass game, but PSU did ultimately wear down Northwestern’s defense with all those tush-pushes and plodding runs. Defensively, Manny Diaz’s unit did their thing, with the lone exception being 3rd and way long situations. I understand Diaz’s system is a very high risk/high reward, but perhaps consider having someone hanging back to spy on the QB when you’re gonna dial up the blitz in those situations? That being said, when the end result is a 41-13 win after being tied 10-10 at halftime against a team you were expected to beat by nearly 4 TD’s, it’s hard to be too critical of the coaching.

Overall: B

It felt like a clunker of a game, given the offense’s early struggles, and the fumbled opening kickoff starting things off on the wrong foot. The one constant however, was the defense absolutely balling out, giving the offense some excellent starting field position on a pair of turnovers on downs, as well as Hardy’s interception, which helped set up 17 of PSU’s 41 points. Good teams find a way to win despite a less than stellar overall performance, great teams cover.