Can you believe we’ve already made it to the penultimate position grades post for the regular season? Seems like yesterday I was doing this for the West Virginia game...Anyway, let’s grade this sucker:
I’m no doctor, but unless somebody can do a Mr. Miyagi massage trick on Drew Allar’s shoulder between now and Black Friday, we’re probably looking at Beau Pribula making his first career start in the season finale against Michigan State. Drew looked like a shell of himself from the beginning of the season, with a misfire on what should’ve been an easy pitch-and-catch to Dante Cephas for a first down to move PSU out of their own end zone, but he did have a couple decent throws and ripped off a few good runs before his last run saw him take a hard hit that forced him out of the game.
Beau came in during the third quarter and went on to run for 71 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, while throwing just one pass, a short screen to Tyler Warren. This in turn, helped open up the run game some more for the running backs. I’ll be curious to see what the over/under is on Beau’s pass attempts against Sparty, as I’m anticipating PSU pretends to be a service academy next week with the offense.
Running Back: B
Kaytron Allen ran tough and carried the offensive attack with a nice 69 yards and two TD’s, including an explosive 21-yarder to move the chains, while Nicholas Singleton was able to rip off a nice 20-yard run up the sidelines (running Singleton towards the sideline, imagine that!) later in the game.
Wide Receiver: N
The ‘N’ being for non-existent, of course. KeAndre Lambert-Smith recorded precisely zero catches, as Omari Evans and Liam Clifford were the only receivers to even make it into the box score for receiving, notching one catch apiece. We knew wide receiver was one of the biggest question marks on offense coming into the season, but most of us assumed somebody would step up by this point.
Tight End: C+
Tyler Warren and Theo Johnson both had a pair of catches, with Warren having a long of 23 yards. Perhaps a quieter afternoon than usual, but productive enough.
Offensive Line: B
It was annoying to see the O-line get little push on that failed 4th and 1 attempt inside Rutgers’ five-yard line that led to Beau Pribula getting stuffed and PSU turning it over on downs. Aside from that though, they were good enough and opening up holes for the running backs and giving Drew time to scan the field and make a throw.
Defensive Line: A-
Thank goodness for Chop Robinson! With PSU leading 13-6 and Rutgers driving across midfield, Chop came up with a blindslide sack of Gavin Wimsatt to jar the ball loose, which PSU recovered and ultimately cashed in with the game-sealing TD.
Kobe King had himself a game, recording a team-high ten tackles, while Abdul Carter tallied up five tackles (including half a sack), as the linebacker unit was all over the place, and the front seven as a whole never allowed Rutgers to do much damage on the ground, holding the Scarlet Knights’ workhorse back Kyle Monangai to 39 yards on 16 carries, and only giving up one explosive play, a 22-yard keeper by Wimsatt.
Maybe not the greatest performance, considered how Wimsatt was able to come up with some timely third down pass completions to move the chains, but KJ Winston did come up with a critical interception midway through the fourth quarter with Rutgers desperately trying to make things interesting again with PSU leading 20-6 and having the ball in PSU territory. Johnny Dixon also came up with his typical on-cue sack.
Special Teams: B+
Alex Felkins was money on a field goal to push PSU’s lead from four to seven, one series after PSU got stuffed on 4th and 1, to give the Lions some breathing space. Riley Thompson was solid in punting again, as he boomed one out of the back of his end zone and forced Rutgers to have to start in their own territory. They did get pinned inside their own five though on a punt late in the first half, which ultimately allowed Rutgers to kick another field goal right before halftime to make it 10-6, and Gabe Nwosu kicked one short, that saw a decent Rutgers return on a kickoff.
The defense, while perhaps giving up a little more yardage than expected, kept Rutgers out of the end zone and came up with some absolute clutch plays in the second half with Chop’s strip-sack and Winston’s pick. Meanwhile, the offense started slow, but seemed to get rolling once acting co-offensive coordinators Ja’Juan Seider and Ty Howle decided to abandon the passing game and just run keepers with Beau or feed it to Kaytron and Nick against a Rutgers defense that was slowly getting gassed.
The game went precisely as I anticipated when I made my 31-6 PSU score prediction: A sluggish first half (offensively, at least) with a close score at halftime, followed by PSU coming alive and gradually wearing down Rutgers in the second half. It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, but it did get the job done and PSU did ultimately cover the 20-point spread. The Nittany Lions now have a chance to make it back-to-back ten-win regular seasons this upcoming Friday at the Detroit Lions stadium.