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Penn State Nittany Lions

State College, PA – Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades As Nittany Lions Beat Wisconsin 22-10 –

Hey Penn State won and looked pretty good doing it. Now at 7-3 the Nittany Lions will face Rutgers and Maryland in the season’s final weeks before a bowl break and a trip to somewhere warmer than State College.

But before all of that let’s take a look back at Saturday’s 22-10 win over Wisconsin and hand out some grades for a solid team effort from all three phases.

Offense: B+

Sure why not. Compared to so many other games this season, Penn State’s offense moved the ball, the chains, scored, and looked like it knew what it wanted to do and was able to do it. Was it always flashy? Was it high scoring? No. But it was effective. KJ Hamler was involved early and DeAndre Thompkins played with confidence as both hauled in a total of 10 catches on 15 targets.

Jahan Dotson continued to look the part with two key catches of his own and Trace McSorley completed 19-of-25 passes for of the most efficient outings he has had in weeks.

This game was largely won on the ground though, Penn State racking up 183 yards rushing with Miles Sanders taking credit for 159 of them on 23 carries. Penn State’s offensive line created holes and Sanders made the most of what he had in front of him. It was a complete effort from the offensive line/running back tandem.

In the big picture Penn State converted 6-of-15 third down attempts and faced a far more manageable average of 6.7 yards to gain than weeks prior where that number has hovered at or over eight yards.

Could this group have done better? Sure. But it had one of its more complete games of the season against a conference foe. Won’t knock it for that. One downside though, the Tommy Stevens package seemingly has no point, and Sanders sure is trying to fumble the ball away inside the 10 a lot and he and Stevens turning the ball over late in the game sure seemed avoidable.

Finally, in a perfect world Jake Pinegar is kicking more extra points than field goals.

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Defense: A

I mean they gave 10 points.

Penn State’s defense was always going to have a tough afternoon in terms of bandaging its weakness at linebacker and against the run and Jonathan Taylor’s long 70+ yard touchdown run was evidence of that. But outside of his big play, the Nittany Lions pretty well kept him in check. Wisconsin’s offense had no, I mean NO, threat in the passing game and once Brent Pry had things figured out it was a long afternoon for Wisconsin’s one-dimensional offense.

Micah Parsons led the way with seven tackles and Shareef Miller had two big sacks of his own on Saturday.

That 209 yards rushing might look like a big number for Wisconsin, but considering it was about the only thing the offense was trying to do, it was a pretty solid effort from Penn State’s defense. The Badgers converted just four times on third down out of 15 attempts.

Wisconsin’s offense helped Penn State out a bit in this department between scheme and injuries, but making tackles is making tackles and the Nittany Lions made them. Can’t knock a team for beating a team it should.

Special Teams: B

This was one of the least-bad games this unit has had all season. Jake Pinegar had a field goal blocked and missed an extra point but a made 49-yard field goal into 25 MPH winds ought to erase at least one of those mistakes. Pinegar was consistent for the most part with makes from 23, 42 and 49 yards all dealing with gusty winds on Saturday. 

Penn State’s return game was largely a non factor but so was Wisconsin’s. Blake Gillikin only punted three times and only had one really bad punt which seems like an improvement for a guy you would have pegged as a strength this year.

CJ Thorpe did return a kickoff 10 yards before fumbling it. This is technically a bad thing, but I can’t hate on a big guy for living out his dreams.

This group could be better, everyone has seen it be worse. The good grade is a result Pinegar capitalizing on Penn State’s drives and this group avoiding a major gaffe.

Overall: B+

As someone who generally wants to give coaches the benefit of the doubt for understanding schemes and personnel better than I do, I still do not understand the point of the Tommy Stevens’ package and the timing of when it is used.

But other than that you can’t hate on the result. Penn State played solid defense, was able to move the chains and got points from special teams when the offense couldn’t find the end zone. This group has played better, it has looked flashier and has put up more points, but it did good things in all three phases for the first time in a long time. 

The grade is down a bit because we’ve seen this entire team look better than it did on Saturday, but it’s still high because it has also looked a lot worse.

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