The Nittany Lions attempt to bounce back following the second loss of the season, and move to 9-2 by sending off the seniors with a victory.
No. 11 Penn State (8-2, 5-2) vs. Rutgers (6-4, 3-4)
Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
TV: FS1, Noon - Chris Myers (play-by-play), Robert Smith (analyst)
Weather: A very pleasant day for mid-November, with sunny skies and a high of 52.
PENN STATE RECORD: 86-38, 10th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 110-53, 13th Year
VS. RUTGERS: 9-0
RUTGERS RECORD: 86-93, 15th Year
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. PENN STATE: 0-3
Penn State leads the all-time series with Rutgers 32-2...the Nittany Lions enter the game ranked first nationally in turnover margin and interceptions thrown, and rank second in sacks, rushing defense and total defense...Penn State is 11-2-3 all-time in games played on November 18, including a 6-6 tie with Washington & Jefferson in 1895...the game will be played on the 23rd anniversary of the infamous “snowball game” against Michigan, when the Nittany Lions defeated the #12 Wolverines following a massive snowstorm in Happy Valley.
RUTGERS OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE
Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt is a high-risk, high-reward type of player. He can create big plays, but also easily turn the ball over. While he may be able to make a big play with either his arm or legs on Saturday, Penn State’s defense should be able to continue the trend of forcing quarterbacks to make mistakes with constant heavy pressure (unless they are able to sit on a lead and just run the ball like Michigan did a week ago).
Wimsatt is completing just 48.6 percent of passes with eight touchdowns and six interceptions, but has created plenty of offense with his legs with 409 yards and seven scores on the season. His ability to scramble has come up big in two of Rutgers’ key wins over the season, with 143 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana and 87 yards and a score against Virginia Tech.
While Rutgers may not have any big-time playmakers at receiver, they do have three very experienced and dependable wideouts leading the way. Christian Dremel is a small but slippery target who can find soft spots and frustrate defenses. Senior tight end Johnny Langen is another experienced and talented passcatcher, although he has been targeted less frequently this season. Langen has 14 catches and has yet to find the end zone in 2023, and has only one or two catches in seven of eight apperances this season.
If the Scarlet Knights attempt to take a page out of the Michigan playbook and simply run the ball to avoid the tenacious Penn State pass rush, they have a strong workhorse back in Kyle Monangai. The junior running back is just 58 yards shy of cracking 1,000 rushing yards on the season and has reeled off five 100-yard games this season, including three of the last four weeks. Monangai recently put up 159 yards and a 6.6 yards per carry average against a similarly stingy Ohio State defense. Monangai is primarily used as a runner, and has only three receptions on the season.
Rutgers offensive line has done well protecting Wimsatt, and have also been helped by his escapability in the pocket. The Scarlet Knights have allowed nine sacks on the season, and just one game with mulitple sacks.
PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS DEFENSE
Rutgers defense has been far better than its offense this season, and is a big reason the Scarlet Knights became bowl eligible after just eight games. Statistically speaking, they are in the top 20 in most categories, including passing defense (9th), total defense (13th), and scoring defense (19th). They do well slowing the run as well, giving up 128.2 yards per game.
The Scarlet Knights are not quite as dominant as the Penn State defense, but have a similar style. They like to bring pressure from different, and often unexpected areas, and have many players who can make plays in the backfield. Penn State’s offense must stay on schedule to move the ball, so avoiding negative plays will be paramount as they rely on converting short third and fourth downs, but can be easily overwhelmed on any third and long attempts with a largely inconsistent passing game.
I’m expecting a heavy dose of Nicholas Singleton and Kayton Allen on the ground and finding some mismatches with the tight ends. This will be the first game without former offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, who was let go following last week’s loss to Michigan. Ja’Juan Seider and Ty Howle will share interim offensive coordinator responsibilities for the remainder of the season. While they may bring some new wrinkles to the offense in the final three games, the limitations of the offense will likely prevent a massive overhaul in style of play.
Jai Patel is 11 of 13 on field goal attempts with a long of 51 yards in his first year as the Scarlet Knights kicker. Punter Flynn Appleby’s has an average of just 39.7 yards per punt, but has had more than a third of his attempts land inside the 20. His season long is 75 yards, and has had several long blasts to flip the field when backed up.
Penn State-31, Rutgers-7
By this point in the year, we know what we know. There’s clear seperation between the two teams who are contending for a Big Ten title and playoff berth, then a gap between them and Penn State, then another large gap between Penn State and the fourth best team in the conference.
Rutgers is a well-coached and pesky team that could cause trouble if Penn State comes out unprepared after having their lofty goals go up in smoke against Michigan last week. While I don’t think we’ll see the best version of the Nittany Lions on Saturday, I don’t see them collapsing either. This team has too much fight in them to do so, and there are many players who are still building their resumes to prepare for a long career at the next level.
Penn State’s defense should have little trouble slowing down the Rutgers offense and creating a few momentum-shifting turnovers. While the offense clearly has some issues, they will be able to move the ball enough and make the plays against a solid defense, but one that is nowhere near as dominant as the two that practically shut down the Nittany Lions offense this season.
The season isn’t heading toward the ending we were hoping for, but a satisfying win on Senior Day and an eye on a NY6 bowl will have to be enough for now.