Penn State vs. Purdue: Gameday Grades
Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a solid day, as he was not asked to do much due to the proficiency of the running game. Hackenberg went 16-of-23 for 212 yard. His lone touchdown pass came on an eight-yarder to fellow freshman, Adam Breneman. Hackenberg sealed the win with a late four-yard run that put the Nittany Lions up 45-21.
Running Backs: A
The Penn State rushing attack posted their best performance of the year with five touchdowns on the ground. The running backs accounted for four of those touchdowns with Zach Zwinak leading the way with three. Bill Belton started the game and ended 19 carries for 81 yards and a score. Zach Zwinak who had been struggling in recent weeks, took over with 26 carries for 149 yards. The running backs are still struggling with hanging onto the ball, as Belton once again fumbled Saturday.
Receivers/Tight Ends: A-
Because the Nittany Lions running game dominated the game the receiving core was not asked to do much. However, when called upon they came up huge for Penn State. Star receiver Allen Robinson notched his 78th catch on a second-quarter snag, which broke the Penn State record for catches in a season that he set last season. Robinson caught eight passes for 98 yards. Tight end Jesse James grabbed two passes for 64 yards. The big impact for the Nittany Lions receiving corps came with 1:18 remaining in the first half, from freshman TE Adam Breneman, who grabbed an eight yard touchdown, that was his first of the season.
Offensive Line: A+
Any time the running game posts over 200 yards the key to that success is the offensive line. The Penn State offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and allowed Belton and Zwinak to move the ball an average 5.3 yards per carry. When it came time to pass the Nittany Lion line protected their freshman quarterback well and did not allow much pressure.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, as they only allowed 41 yards on the ground. They pressured Purdue quarterback Danny Etling well, as Deion Barnes forced his first fumble of the season on a third quarter sack. DT DaQuan Jones also notched a sack on Etling in the second quarter.
The Nittany Lion linebacker unit had a solid performance Saturday. Nyeem Wartman nabbed his first career sack and forced forced fumble in the fourth quarter. Mike Hull recovered that fumble, the third of his career.
Defensive Backs: A
The Penn State secondary played its most complete game of the season, as it forced a turnover and also got to the quarterback. Sophomore CB Jordan Lucas had a stellar performance for the Nittany Lions. Lucas intercepted Purdue quarterback Danny Etling in the second quarter for his team leading third interception of the season. He shed blocks well and got involved in making tackles in the running game. S/CB Adrian Amos posted a career high 2.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks Saturday. S Ryan Keiser added his career-best seven tackles. While the secondary gave up 223 yards passing to Purdue they did a good job of containing the Boilermaker receivers.
Special Teams: C
The weakest point of the Nittany Lions Saturday was their special teams unit. They allowed a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown to Purdue’s Raheem Mostert in the second quarter and almost allowed another if it were not for a Sam Ficken tackle. Sam Ficken knocked in a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter, making him 14-of-19 on the season.
Penn State did not punt in a game for the first time since 1997.
Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien did a solid job calling plays Saturday, as he stuck with what worked. The Nittany Lions ran the ball 58 times for 289 yards. O’Brien did not ask his freshman quarterback to do too much and just called plays that put his players in the best position to succeed. The defensive side of the ball for the Lions hasAda been getting criticized lately but Saturday DC John Butler got his unit to dominate the Boilermakers. The defense sacked Etling six times and forced three turnovers.
Penn State dominated this game from the start as they went up 14-0 early. Purdue never held a lead and was truly never able to get going. The biggest question coming into this week for the Nittany Lions was the secondary. They answered that question with a productive outing Saturday. The special teams did not have a good outing and will look to perform better in their next contest. Besides the special teams the Nittany Lions played well on both sides of the ball. Next week Penn State plays Nebraska on Senior Day in Beaver Stadium.
John Patterson is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Abby Drey)