Game Grades: Michigan
In what many expected to be a drag out-knock out matchup till the end, Penn State blew the doors off a top five defense in Michigan Saturday night in front of record-setting crowd in Beaver Stadium. The offense played well and the defense once again showcased why they need to be in the conversation for tops in the country.
From a pure passing stand point, McSorley didn’t impress anyone, but certainly did his part, completing 65 percent of his passes for 282 yards and a score. Though he did have an interception due to miscommunication with Mike Geisicki early, he managed the ball well.
It was McSorley’s feet, however, that propelled the Nittany Lions forward on offense.
Averaging almost seven yards a carry and scoring three times on the ground through only eleven touches, McSorley’s 76 yards added to a thrashing 282 yards of total rushing that owned Michigan’s defense all night. He was shifty, made excellent decisions on the zone read and even showed his muscle by bulldozing a defender on his way to his third score of the night.
Running Backs: B+
Saquon Barkley averaged 7.2 yards a carry on a team that was predicted to bottle him up in the backfield. That notion quickly changed after the first play when the junior tailback took a wildcat snap 69 yards to the house. Though he only mustered up 39 more yards on 14 carries, the backfield did a good job setting up the pass.
Barkley was a benefactor of that setup himself, scooping up three catches for 53 yards and a score on a pass that he juggled into the air twice before reeling it in. Barkley thrusted himself back into the top of the Heisman conversation after a shaky past few weeks.
Wide Receivers: B
Outside of another standout performance from DaeSean Hamilton, the Penn State receiving corps looked very pedestrian this week. There were only a few deep ball targets on the night, most of which went to Hamilton, who came down with an amazing catch that setup a Trace McSorley rushing TD late in the first half.
The next closest receiver to DaeSean Hamilton’s 115 yards was Juwan Johnson, who had an average night, catching three passes for 30 yards. The emphasis of the offense this week was on rushing, but the receivers did their part when they were called upon.
Tight Ends: C+
It wasn’t necessarily because of a lack of effort, but the tight end position was just not utilized much throughout the game on Saturday.
For the second game in a row, Mike Geisicki only caught two passes, however; one of the catches was an acrobatic masterpiece. He made an excellent play to contort his body so he could jump over a Michigan defender and come down with one foot just barely in and complete his 35-yard effort which set up Saquon Barkely for a score.
Geisicki’s was responsible however for Trace McSorley’s one INT when he ran the wrong route early in the first quarter. Not every Saturday can be a career day, and this week was just one of those weeks.
Offensive Line: B+
Some would argue that last night was the offensive line’s best game of the year and it may have been, but there is still plenty of room to improve.
To start, Michigan had Penn State’s number on the blitz as guys were coming free and Michigan had two sacks in the first quarter. The linemen also had issues getting off of double teams at times. Even though they were getting push on Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary, they let guys like Chase Winovich free from the second level to meet Barkley in the hole.
But, after that first quarter, Penn State made some key adjustments on the side line and from there on, they looked like the unit fans have been expecting since day one. Trace McSorley had time in the pocket to look down field and Saquon Barkely had holes to hit most of the night.
The Nittany Lions face another stout front seven next week on Columbus and will need both aspects of the blocking game to be effective to get the win next week.
One of the most underrated units in the country added another great performance to their resume for why they should be considered a top unit.
The Nittany Lions continued their streak of allowing zero points in the first quarter this year and held Michigan’s offense to 269 yards. The biggest struggle of the night for the defense seemed to be containing John O’Korn on broken passing plays. However, they were able to shut him down later in the game, rounding out the great performance with seven sacks. Look to the unit again next week as they will need to shut down JT Barrett and company in order to stay in the game.
Special Teams: A-
Not much to be said for special teams this week. There were no major plays given up on kicking plays minus one return to about the 40 in the first half by Ambry Thomas. Tyler Davis made all of his extra point attempts, which he hasn’t done a lot this year.
Finally, for all two plays Blake Gillikin was on the field, he booted the ball well, covering 99 yards between both punts.
Given the tough nature of next week’s game, Tyler Davis will be important if Penn State is unable to punch in the ball on every drive in the Buckeyes’ half of the field.
Travis Sutton is a sophomore majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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