Game Grades: Michigan State
No. 6 Penn State claimed victory on Saturday afternoon over Michigan State, 28-7, and brought the almighty Land Grant Trophy back home to Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions now move to 8-0, while the Spartans fall to 4-4, as their disappointing season continues.
All around, considering the windy and rainy playing conditions, it was a fantastic win for Penn State. Let’s hand out our game grades, scoring how each individual unit for the Nittany Lions performed:
Outside of the one horrendous interception, Sean Clifford had a very impressive outing in the rain, completing 18 of 32 passes for 189 yards and four touchdowns. From the get-go, the ball was coming out of his hand tightly and accurately. Clifford threw a beautiful touchdown lob to Freiermuth on the second drive of the game and had the offense off to another hot start.
Freiermuth would later tack on two more scores, tying Mike Gesicki’s Penn State record of touchdown receptions for a tight end with 15. KJ Hamler also scored, extending his touchdown total to eight on the year.
No one for Penn State really got going in the running game, but everyone held their own and allowed for a multi-dimensional, well-executed, consistent offensive performance across the board. The offensive line also did its part, protecting Clifford from a tough Spartans front.
There were a lot of dropped balls, and although some of them should have been caught, most of those drops can be attributed to the rain, as it limited both teams.
Penn State’s defense played like its usual self, attacking and completely dominating the opposition on every level for all four quarters. The Nittany Lions only allowed seven points, and Michigan State’s offense wasn’t particularly threatening at all.
Micah Parson had another huge game, flying all over the field and recording 12 tackles. But the depth of this unit is what especially shined. The reserves for the Nittany Lions came up big in the turnover battle. Jayson Oweh was a force, recording two strip-sacks in the game, while defensive backs Marquis Wilson and Jaquan Brisker both had an interception as well.
The only huge knock for Penn State’s defensive unit was the three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties committed by the defense in the second half. The coaching staff will have to sort out those issues for the future.
Special Teams: B+
Penn State’s special teams unit had an up-and-down performance. It seemed like for every positive play, there was an equally negative one. The only things that were consistent were Blake Gillikin’s punting and the Nittany Lions’ punt coverage. It was magnificent, as it has often been lately. It’s also worth mentioning that Shaka Toney blocked a field goal.
Conversely, there were a handful of issues. Hamler had another return touchdown called back because of a penalty. Jake Pinegar missed an extra point, snapping his streak of 48 consecutive makes, and Jordan Stout sent a kickoff out of bounds. These are relatively minor errors considering the 28-7 victory, but they’ll have to be cleaned up in the future for tougher opponents.
A lot of people predicted that Michigan State would pull off the upset, but it seemed like the coaches didn’t let that noise or any sort of White Out hangover get to the team, which was well-prepared and focused. The play-calling was exceptional on both sides. The offense moved smoothly for most of the game, and the defense was barely giving Michigan State anything to work with.
The only knock against Ricky Rahne’s play-calling was the decision to continue passing the ball in the fourth quarter with a three-touchdown lead in a torrential downpour. Outside of this, it was an all-around excellent performance by Penn State’s coaching staff.
Zach Donaldson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.