Five Things We Learned: Rutgers
Despite a very slow start, the Nittany Lions defeated the Scarlet Nights 27-6 on a sleepy afternoon at Beaver Stadium. Here are five things we learned from the game:
Will Levis is a tank on the ground, not so much with the pass game
While he wasn’t up against a particularly tough defense, Will Levis realized that he wasn’t going to get much going through the air.
After two incomplete passes and a poorly-executed swing pass, Penn State was three-and-out on just the third drive of the game. Therefore, on the next Penn State drive, Levis carried the ball four times for 48 yards and handed it off to Journey Brown who finished the nine play, 76-yard drive for a touchdown to put the Lions up 7-3.
Levis ended up leading the team in rushing yards, as he rushed for 108 yards on 17 carries and, similar to the Ohio State game, he sacrificed his body to stretch for those extra yards and get the first down.
The offensive line is still very offensive
Penn State’s offensive line failed to protect the quarterback against the Rutgers defense, who before Saturday's game had only 14 sacks on the year and let up an average of 400 yards a game. On Saturday, Will Levis was sacked four times for a total loss of 31 yards. He had to escape many jams that a better offensive line could have easily avoided.
Third downs continue to be a struggle for Penn State
Throughout the season, there was great focus on the Nittany Lions’ ability to convert on third down. Their third down offense was never consistently effective and Saturday’s game proved to be no different.
Penn State went 3-for-10 on third down plays, including a couple third-and-shorts that should have been converted. Fans could blame this on the fact that offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne and the Nittany Lions offense had to work with a new quarterback but, either way, the third down efficiency needs to get better before the postseason.
Blake Gillikin shines in his last start, leaves behind big shoes to fill
Two-time team captain Blake Gillikin has been a stellar punter, making his way into the history books over his four-year Penn State career. He has the highest career yards per punt in Penn State history, averging more than 43 yards per punt. He has had 96 career punts inside the 20-yard line and 53 career punts inside the 10-yard line.
Gillikin excelled in Saturday’s game with four punts, each averaging nearly 50 yards.
Penn State is unable to completely dominate a game
Saturday’s game was supposed to be a blowout, much like the Idaho game. Most fans and pundits expected the game to be handily decided by the end of the first quarter, but that was most certainly not the case.
Penn State was playing at home against a 2-9 Rutgers team that has been absent on offense with just under 300 yards averaged per game and pretty quiet on defense. Penn State never got their offense going until the third quarter, after a presumably angry coach James Franklin reinvigorated the Lions in the locker room.
They consistently got stuck down the field and were unable to successfully convert on tight third and fourth down plays.
Josh Portney is a freshman studying Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.