Well, that was fun last night! Where the hell was that offensive explosiveness all season long??? I think the tweet below best sums up my thoughts (and perhaps your thoughts, too):
I am escorting Mike Yurcich to federal prison— Treb (@treblaw) November 25, 2023
Anyway, for the last time in the 2023 regular season...let’s grade this sucker!
Drew Allar reminded the Penn State faithful why they fell in love with him in the first place with the way he lit up Michigan State through the air for nearly 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It seemed that Ja’Juan Seider and Ty Howle were giving him more quick and easy one-read throws early on to get him into a rhythm, build some confidence, and eventually drop bombs like the 60-yarder to Omari Evans that set up one of five PSU TD’s for the evening. We also got a small and satisfying dose of Beau Pribula, as he accounted for a pair of TD’s (one rushing, one passing).
Running Back: A+
Kaytron Allen (138 yards rushing) and Nicholas Singleton (118 yards, one TD) both went over a hundred yards on the ground in the same game for the first time this season. Seider and Howle also did a tremendous job of involving both backs in the passing game, particularly Singleton, who does his best work in space (imagine that!), taking a screen pass 53 yards to set up a scoring drive, while Allen caught PSU’s first TD of the game. Easily the best performance all year from this unit.
Wide Receiver: A-
Look, it’s the holiday season, and I’m feeling quite generous. Plus, a 42-0 win deserves a straight-A report card, so despite the wide receiving crew not accounting for a ton of passing yards, Omari Evans being on the receiving end of a 60-yard pass from Allar bumps this grade to A-minus territory. Dante Cephas did have a few catches for 36 yards and KeAndre Lambert-Smith logged a 22-yard catch.
Tight End: A
Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren were both solid in blocking and key parts of the passing attack, with both players catching a TD. Could their last hurrah be coming in whatever bowl game the Nittany Lions end up in?
Offensive Line: A
After struggling on the first couple of drives to pick up Sparty blitzes, the O-line settled into form, giving Drew plenty of time to pick apart the opposing secondary, and creating good holes for Allen and Singleton to work their way through.
Defensive Line: A+
Adisa Isaac was a dude, leading the defense in tackles with seven of them, including a sack, and was absolutely blowing up the Sparty backfield. The D-line as a whole was dominant from the start, which is why I was never worried even when PSU was only up 6-0 in the second quarter.
Not to be outdone, the linebackers accounted for the majority of PSU’s seven total sacks, with Abdul Carter racking up two of them, while Curtis Jacobs had 1.5 and Keon Wylie had a sack, as well. Hopefully, Abdul’s injury he suffered in the second half that caused him to miss the remainder of the game isn’t anything serious.
Did they give up a couple of big pass plays early on that perhaps they shouldn’t have? Yes. You know what, though? When you hold the opposing team to 58 total offensive yards, it doesn’t matter. Jaylen Reed came up with a clutch interception on a promising opening drive for Sparty, where it seemed like they were at least going to come away with three points, while Cam Miller racked up a sack, and Johnny Dixon teamed up with Jacobs for a sack. They
Special Teams: A
Two out of three ain’t bad: Alex Felkins had an unfortunate doink on one of his field goal attempts, but nailed 49 and 30-yard kicks before the offense eventually started finishing their promising drives in the end zone. Riley Thompson did his thing in the punting game, while Gabe Nwosu put all of his kickoffs for touchbacks. Daequan Hardy had another big-time punt return, setting up a PSU TD drive from the Sparty 30-yard line.
If James Franklin and his offensive staff (deservedly) got a ton of flack for the losses to Ohio State and Michigan, he gets a similar amount of praise for canning Mike Yurcich after the Michigan loss and for how much more improved the offense looked in the second week with Seider/Howle as acting O-coordinators. Yes, Michigan State is bad, but PSU did not look this explosive against Delaware, UMass, or Indiana (to name a few other weaker opponents). Manny Diaz and the defensive staff’s group meanwhile, continued to do its thing that its done all year long.
A 42-point shutout win that featured plenty of explosive plays and saw PSU outgain Sparty 586 to 53 en route to clinching back-to-back ten win seasons and their fifth such ten-win season in the James Franklin era. What more could you have asked for?