As the fine folks on my favorite college football podcast The Solid Verbal would say: Win. Your. Clunkers.
Now, with that being said, time to grade yesterday’s clunker...
I really had a hard time figuring out how to grade this one. Drew Allar threw for three touchdown passes, but also throwing a very untimely interception that could’ve cost Penn State the game. He also did too much checking down at times, and although he did take a few more chances downfield than he previously had been taking, he still passed up on some other opportunities.
I, as well as several other of my fellow BSD colleagues, had been saying for a while that it might be good for Drew to throw that first pick, get it out of his system, realize he’s not going to die as a result, and perhaps play a little more loose and as Cory Giger would say “just throw it deep.” Well, guess what? Allar did go deep right after that interception, and it paid absolute dividends for him. Here’s to hoping that TD pass marked the turning of the page for Drew’s PSU career.
Running Back: C+
At this point, we just need to accept the running game for what it is: Capable of getting some yards, keeping the offense on schedule, and sometimes moving the chains, but lacking in explosiveness. Nick Singleton did reach the end zone on a nice reach across the goalline over the pile and had five total catches, while Kaytron Allen led the way in rushing yards with 80 of them on 18 carries.
Wide Receiver: B-
As my pal Lando said in his post-game write-up, great things happen when you throw it deep! KeAndre Lambert-Smith made up for an inexcusable dropped deep ball earlier in the game by coming down with a 57-yard TD reception on a bomb from Allar, where he managed to not only catch the ball despite being held, but also kept his balance and tightroped the sideline before somersaulting into the end zone. Unfortunately, the rest of the receiver unit was absent, with the exception of Dante Cephas’ two catches. Tre Wallace went down early with a shoulder injury and returned without his uniform in a sling, so perhaps we shouldn’t expect to see him again for a while.
Tight End: A
Khalil Dinkins and Theo Johnson both had a TD catch, while Tyler Warren had a couple catches as well, as the tight ends were a critical component of the passing attack.
Offensive Line: D
Although the O-line seemed to gradually wear down the Indiana defense the longer the game went on, it was disturbing how they struggled to get some real push against the worst rush defense in the Big Ten. Pass protection was also shaky at times, with Allar either getting sacked or just barely avoiding the sack.
Defensive Line: C+
I guess the D-line missed Chop Robinson more than we thought they would for today, as Indiana seemed to have a little more success than you’d think running right at this middle of the defense. Mad props to Dani Dennis-Sutton though, for coming up with the game-sealing strip sack safety of Indiana quarterback Branden Sorsby.
Abdul Carter and Kobe King had a busy afternoon with five tackles apiece, while Curtis Jacobs had a quieter one with just one tackle. You would’ve liked to see them wrap up a little better and stuff the Hoosiers’ run more than they ended up doing, but otherwise can’t complain too much.
Giving up one busted coverage TD is one thing, but giving up multiple busted coverage TDs??? Thankfully, the secondary did clean up their communication going forward, as Jaylen Reed came up with a critical interception to set up PSU’s go-ahead field goal right before halftime, and Johnny Dixon and Daequan Hardy both came up with a sack, each. Still, this easily has to be the worst performance from the secondary I’ve seen all season long.
Special Teams: B+
50-plus yard field goals are always a tall ask for your kickers to make, but Alex Felkins made one to give PSU its first lead of the game right before halftime while also having enough power to make another one earlier in the game, but just sending it off to the left. Riley Thompson had a good enough day punting as well, while the punt coverage unit was opportunistic once again with a muffed recovery, setting up a PSU TD. Daequan Hardy unfortunately, had his third punt return TD of the year called back for a block-in-the-back penalty.
Hopefully Mike Yurcich has finally realized to just let Drew be Drew and let him take his share of downfield shots. The defense did clean things up somewhat after the two busted-coverage TD’s, but allowed a couple of sustained Hoosier drives in the second half, one of which led to the game-tying TD that had everyone thinking we were headed towards a 2021 Illinois-type of finish. Kudos to Manny Diaz for keeping his guys’ spirits up and dialing up something that allowed one of his studs to make a clutch play late in the game, but this is definitely a game he would like to forget from an overall performance standpoint.
I will never, ever, give a ‘D’ grade overall for a win. That being said, these hangovers following the first loss of the year or a loss to Ohio State are growing really tiresome. A win is a win though, and now it’s on to a Maryland team that PSU always seems to get up for, and is also in absolute free fall after a third straight loss, and their second as a double-digit favorite.