Game Grades: Temple
While it certainly involved more theatrics than the Penn State faithful would have hoped, Penn State avenged last year’s egregious loss to in-state rival Temple by the score of 34-27.
The Nittany Lions held what seemed to be a comfortable 21-10 lead going into halftime behind stellar quarterback play from Trace McSorley.
The Owls put quite a scare into the fans in Happy Valley. They cut the Lions’ lead to a mere three points with eight minutes left to play in the fourth due to multiple Penn State errors. Penn State responded behind the legs of Saquon Barkley, who broke off a 55-yard touchdown to put the Nittany Lions up by 10 late in the fourth quarter, ending the threat of a second consecutive loss to Temple.
Here are the final grades for Penn State’s performance against the Temple Owls:
The Nittany Lions offense found themselves without their best player, Saquon Barkley, for much of the first half against Temple. This meant McSorley had to carry the offense, and did he ever. McSorley finished the first half 13-18 for 171 yards and a touchdown. He also picked up 13 yards and another score with his legs. The only negative to talk about from McSorley’s first half was his inability to slide, as he took a big hit from two Temple defenders. As the game progressed into the second half, McSorley’s interception inside his own ten-yard line swung momentum Temple’s way and got them back in the game. The Penn State QB has had at least one turnover in every game this season, but not all was bad in the second half for the signal caller. His connection to Tight End Mike Geskicki was a huge play in the third quarter. While Gesicki will deservedly get most of the praise for the catch, it would not have been possible without McSorley’s ability to avoid a Temple pass rusher and escape the pocket to make the throw. The ability of McSorley to use his legs in addition to his arm continues to be a huge plus for the Blue and White.
Running Backs: B
With Saquon Barkley out the majority of the first half, the Nittany Lions relied on their backups to move the ball on the ground. Andre Robinson had a productive series which included a key first down run on third-and-eleven, followed by a rushing TD two plays later. Miles Sanders also had a big play in the second quarter, rushing for 19 yards on fourth down to the Temple nine-yard line. Unfortunately, Sanders fumbled on the next play. With Barkley back in the fold for Penn State in the second half, he remained quiet until Penn State needed a play by breaking free for a 55-yard game-ending run. He finished with nine carries for 68 yards.
Wide Receivers: A
If it was unclear after the first two weeks of the season, it’s clear now. Penn State has some very talented pass catchers. On the second drive of the game, Chris Godwin hauled in a 52-yard TD pass to go up 7-0 early in the first quarter. He would finish the game with seven receptions for 117 yards. DeAndre Thompkins made some timely catches for the second week in a row, finishing with 36 yards on three receptions. DaeSean Hamilton was not as active as last week, but he did break free from a defender for a 45-yard catch-and-run that led to a Penn State field goal.
Tight End: B
Mike Gesicki only caught two passes on Saturday, but one of those catches was a one-handed, Odell Beckham Jr-esque catch early in the third quarter for 52 yards. Gesicki’s big play capability continues to be a huge addition to an already impressive receiving corps.
Offensive Line: B
For the first time this season the offensive line for Penn State finished the game without any sacks allowed. McSorley’s ability to use his legs to avoid pressure certainly helped him escape sack-situations, and McSorley was hit after he threw the football on several occasions, but this was the best performance from the offensive line so far in this year’s campaign. This unit faces its biggest test to date against Michigan in “The Big House” next week.
After an embarrassing performance against Pitt last week, the defense got off to a rough start this week against another in-state rival. After a three-and-out in Temple’s first drive of the game, the Owls took two plays to drive 75 yards in 41 seconds to tie the game at seven. This Lions defense has been devastated with injuries to key starters. As a result of this backups have had to come in and fill these gaps, and a missed assignment by backup linebacker Jake Cooper led to a 67-yard completion in the aforementioned drive. The defense eventually settled down, and forced two consecutive punts and a turnover on downs before letting up a field goal before the half. While the box score indicates the Penn State defense struggled in the second half, allowing 17 points, this was due to a McSorley interception and an almost costly special teams mishap. The pass-rush was also in full effect. Rushers got in the backfield often, improved against the run since last week, and their pressure led to a game-ending interception by John Reid.
Special Teams: C+
This unit earned itself an A+ after the first half. A punt to the one-inch line and multiple punt and kick returns to help the offense receive great field-position helped capped off a tremendous special teams performance by the Nittany Lions in the first half. And then the second half happened. The Nittany Lions made two horrific plays in this half. A kickoff from Joey Julius sailed out of bounds giving Temple the ball at the thirty-five yard line down ten points. This eventually led to a Temple field goal. But the bigger of the two mistakes came earlier. The Nittany Lions were about to get the ball back from Temple, up ten points, with under 13 minutes to go. Temple’s punt deflected off a Penn State player and eventually was recovered by Temple at the one-yard line. This play led to a touchdown and a three-point game. These mistakes simply cannot happen, and they overshadowed an otherwise impressive special teams performance.
Coaching Staff: B+
Penn State was very aggressive in the first half. They went for it on fourth down twice, and converted on these opportunities both times. It is going to be very interesting to see how aggressive they are next week, as there is going to be little room for error against Michigan.
Charles Hart is a freshman majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org