Game Grades: Penn State vs. San Diego State
In the Nittany Lions’ 37-21 win over San Diego State, Penn State’s players continued to improve. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg shined behind a strong offensive line, the wide receivers caught almost everything thrown their way, the defense forced three turnovers; one which was returned for a touchdown and Joey Julius had a great game kicking.
On the downside, both starting running backs suffered injuries during the game and special teams couldn’t do much on returns on either side of the ball. Coaching did well and even pulled off a trick play for a huge gain.
Christian Hackenberg had a great game, going 21/35 on 296 yards with three touchdowns. He mainly missed people on the deep ball and when the receivers were tightly defended. He did hit a couple of people who were running deep routes for big yardage. Hackenberg looked good overall and if his line can keep him on his feet, he will continue to have a good season.
Running Backs: C+
At the beginning of the game, I was expecting to be writing about how great the Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch combo worked for the third game in a row--however, both Barkley and Lynch were sent to the locker room early in the game for injuries and did not return. Barkley ran for 62 yards on eight carries, one of them going for 34 yards. The back-up running backs didn’t make much of an impact in the running department, though on one of his first plays, Mark Allen caught a screen pass for a 13-yard touchdown. There was even a trick play as Hackenberg handed the ball off to Nick Scott, who rolled right and threw it up to Chris Godwin who reeled it in for a big gain.
Wide Receivers: B
The receivers did very well in the game against San Diego State. Hackenberg only had to roll out of the pocket to buy time for the wide receivers to get open. Saeed Blacknall was the leading receiver with four catches for 101 yards, followed by Chris Godwin with five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line did a very good job at managing to keep Hackenberg clean for the most part, (allowed two sacks) but struggled at times opening holes for the running backs. Hackenberg had a good amount of time in the pocket, and only had to roll out a couple of times throughout the game.
If the defense hadn’t played such a great game, Penn State could have easily lost the game. The defense kept San Diego State in check, forcing them to punt eight times and keeping the Aztecs from having big plays. If San Diego State hadn’t returned a kickoff near the beginning of the game, the score would have showed the success of the defense more. Penn State's defense caused three fumbles, one of which was returned for 71 yards and a touchdown by Austin Johnson.
Special Teams: B
Joey Julius had a great game in the scoring department, but he needs to work on his kickoffs. He hit three of four field goal attempts and all four extra points. One of his kickoffs went out of bounds before making it into the end zone, resulting in a penalty. Another one was returned for a touchdown. His other kickoffs went without much of a hitch. Nick Scott and Koa Farmer did well returning kickoffs, but nothing spectacular happened in this game. DeAndre Thompkins was returning punts and muffed one, which was recovered by San Diego State at the start of the second half.
The coaching went pretty well. Obviously there were a few times where the fans wanted to go for it on 4th and short, but the play calling was conservative throughout most of the game. The one really big surprise on the play calling side was when the offense ran a running back pass. It would be really interesting if they continued to call the occasional trick play to keep the defense on their toes.
Tommy Butler is a freshman who is majoring in film and video. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: USA Today