Game Grades: Michigan

Story posted September 25, 2016 in CommRadio, Sports by Claudia Hatch

With a close game of 28-16 last year, and a recent win against Temple, Nittany Lion fans were hopeful going into this week's game against Michigan. Unfortunately the hope was lost quickly, as the Wolverines trampled the Nittany Lions for a 49-10 win.

Here are the final grades for the Penn State Nittany Lions’ performances against Michigan:

Quarterback: B-

With a defense as strong as Michigan’s, it was bound to be a tough match for McSorley, but he did manage to play a decent game. He was able to pull out an eight yard touchdown pass completion early in the fourth quarter. He had a 59% pass completion and was able to end the game with 121 yards. His arm was very useful against the Wolverines, however his ability to use running back Saquon Barkley, really helped the team push down the field. Early in the third quarter McSorley handed off the ball to Barkley who rushed for 33 yards, then soon after threw another 19 yard pass, putting them in field goal range. This helped shift the momentum and was a great connection by the QB. His vision was strong during the game, but with a cornerback like Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis, it was hard to complete passes. He also had an interception late in the fourth quarter that resulted in a 22 yard gain for the Wolverines, and was sacked twice. Overall his game could have been better and he could have utilized his running game more, but he still put up a strong fight leading his team as best he could.

Running backs: B

Saquon Barkley definitely led the team in this game. He had a 33 yard rush followed by a 19 yard pass completion that moved the team down the field and pushed them into field goal range.  Overall he rushed for 59 yards with 15 carries. Sanders had 14 rushing yards, and was running the ball near the end of the fourth, but then he fumbled giving  Michigan the ball and 17 yards. This pretty much ended the game for the Nittany Lions. While Barkley is a very skilled player, the overall running game was weak against the Michigan defense.

Wide Receivers: C

The receivers were a big part of the game. Penn State needed to have a strong passing game if they wanted to beat a team like Michigan, but they did not perform as well as they should have. With McSorley's vision, there were multiple opportunities to bring the score closer, but the completions just weren’t there. It was Godwin who landed the touchdown. He was able to get an 8-yard connection with McSorley, get through the middle and put another six points on the board for Penn State. Hamilton was not as active as he could have been with only eleven yards. While their efforts were strong, their play was average, earning them a performance grade of a C.

Tight End: C

Gesicki only had 23 yards this game with five receptions. He did receive a nine yard pass while the lions were on the second and ten, but overall his play was average. Being such a talented player, he did not rise to the occasion during this game, but will be a huge asset to the team this season.

Offensive Line: C

After such a strong game last week, without any sacks, it was sad to see the performance of the offensive line dip a bit. Michigan is a very solid team, and it was expected the running game would be difficult for Penn State. Allowing McSorley to get sacked six times and with only a field goal and touchdown on the board, it was clear the unit was struggling to keep up with the Wolverines.

Defense: B

While it is clear the defense also struggled in this game, they are also facing injuries to three of their starting linebackers. Then, to top it off, Brandon Smith was ejected from the game, after finally getting his chance to start, for targeting. This was debatable because they were both going for the ball when he hit the Michigan player’s head, but the officials gave Penn State a fifteen yard penalty and Smith was forced to leave the game. The defense did not seem to be working as a cohesive unit and right from the start Michigan was able to score on their first offensive set. The defense has been struggling to bring the running man down, and this really hurt them against Michigan. The Wolverines ended with 326 rushing yards compared to the Nittany Lions who only had 70. They get a B due to the fact that their three starting linebackers and Smith were out of the game, but I would expect more depth from the bench.

Special Teams: A

I would give the special teams an A in this game. Even with their solid punts, Michigan was still able to run the ball back and gain a significant amount of yardage. Joey Julius had another big tackle late in the game when he took down Michigan’s number 26 after kicking the ball off. This is something he is known for and is a huge asset to the special teams. Gillikin had 270 yards with his punts with a 61 yard kick. Also, Davis made his 21 yard field goal putting the first three points on the board for Penn State.

Coaching Staff: C+

I was not pleased with the coaching staff this game. With a number 4 ranked team like Michigan, they needed to be much more aggressive, especially when it came to passing plays. Their running game was not strong enough to break the defense, so they should have used McSorley’s arm much more.


Claudia Hatch is a freshman.  To contact her, email