Game Grades: Rutgers
After a slow start to the game, Penn State’s offense hit its stride in the second half. Quarterback Trace McSorley passed for 214 yards, completed 16 of 21 passes and a touchdown. He was also able to pick up chunks of yards on several designed QB runs, including a 20 yard touchdown run in which he displayed his elusiveness. In fact, McSorley’s performance in the ground game was arguably more impressive than running back Saquon Barkley’s who only totaled 35 yards on 14 carries. There appeared to be many plays where the run blocking was not keeping holes open for Barkley long enough for him to get back to the line of scrimmage. Rutgers’ defense did not allow Barkley to break off any of his big signature run plays: his longest carry of the day went for 11 yards. Juwan Johnson also had an impressive day, catching five balls for 78 yards and showing toughness in outmuscling his man and other tacklers for extra yards on several of his catches. Same for tight end Mike Gesicki who caught four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown.
The Nittany Lions’ defense bounced back from the past two losses in a big way Saturday, only allowing 200 total yards to the Scarlet Knights’ offense. The pass defense had an especially big turnaround, holding Rutgers quarterback Giovanni Rescigno to an underwhelming 43 yards on 7 of 20 passing. This stout effort by the Penn State secondary came a week after allowing Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke to pass for 400 yards and two touchdowns in a gut-wrenching loss. The big boys up front also did an okay job keep the running game contained, allowing 157 yards to five different ball carriers. The defensive effort in key situations was also an important factor in this game, as Penn State limited Rutgers to 3 of 15 on third down conversions.
Special Teams: A-
The Penn State punt coverage team had a nice day, limiting Rutgers punt returner Janarion Grant to one return that went for 12 yards. They also downed a punt inside the 10-yard line. Kicker Tyler Davis had no field goal tries in this game, but was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra points. Punter Blake Gillikin punted five times, averaged 40.6 yards per punt, putting three inside the 20-yard line. His longest boot of the day went 53 yards. Needless to say Rutgers was working with some poor field position throughout the game. In the kick return game, Saquon Barkley returned one kick for 30 yards, but on his first chance of the day, he appeared to misjudge a slightly short kick, allowing Rutgers to recover what would be credited as an onside kick. Rutgers recovered the ball and made a field goal to open the scoring for the game.
Early in this game, Penn State looked sluggish, with the Barkley kick return mishap to some ineffective offense on the first possession or two. By the second quarter, head coach James Franklin had Penn State playing the physical football that the school is known for. Also, credit offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead for sticking with the run in a game during which it wasn’t overly effective, especially in regards to Saquon Barkley’s performance. The defensive coaches also deserve applause, as the Penn State secondary seemed more mentally prepared for this game than the last two weeks.
Jeremy Ganes is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.