Penn State vs. Indiana: Gameday Grades
Christian Hackenberg put up big numbers in this one, but had his fair share of struggles. Hackenberg finished 30 for 55 with 340 yards, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was a very good day statistically, but Hackenberg held the ball for too long in the pocket and overthrew his fair share of receivers. He also fumbled in the endzone, resulting in a safety. Hackenberg had a mediocre day overall in his first Big Ten contest. The true freshman has a big test coming up next week against Michigan.
Running Backs: C+
The normally strong running attack was mostly held in check by Indiana. Zach Zwinak showed signs of hope and ran hard gaining 72 yards on 17 carries. Bill Belton gained 31 yards on 10 carries and added 24 receiving yards plus a touchdown. Belton seemed to be moving east and west, more than north and south, when given the ball.
One of the more shocking storylines was the lack of Akeel Lynch during the game. Lynch gained seven yards on just three carries. The lack of a consistent running game dogged the Nittany Lions throughout.
Receivers/Tight Ends: B+
The Hoosiers game can’t be blamed on the pass catchers. Junior standout, Allen Robinson , followed up last season’s 10 catch, 197 yard, three touchdown performance with another outstanding effort. Robinson had 12 catches for 173 yards and two scores, this time around.
He just narrowly missed out on a third touchdown grab, but landed out of bounds and was injured for a short period of time before returning to the game. Tight end Kyle Carter also added a solid performance with six catches for 79 yards. Young receivers Eugene Lewis (5 catches) and Richy Anderson (3 catches) contributed as well.
Offensive Line: C
This unit struggled greatly in this contest. The line didn’t seem to mount much of a push in the rushing game. The team averaged less than four yards per carry on traditional run plays. They only allowed quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, to be sacked once, but he was pressured a number of times. Miles Dieffenbach had two costly false start penalties on a crucial series. The unit struggled as a whole, failing to get any sort of push and the run game.
Defensive Line: B-
The defensive line had its moments in this game, but failed to make an outstanding impact. Anthony Zettel, Kyle Baublitz each recorded a sack. DaQuan Jones and C.J Olaniyan managed to contribute one tackle for loss apiece. Deion Barnes only managed an assisted tackle in the contest and didn’t generate much pressure. Indiana ran for 150 yards and opened up a few big holes in the defensive line. They failed to get a push against Indiana’s offensive line in goal line
situations. The D-Line put up a solid effort and will need to generate pressure on Michigan QB Devin Gardner next weekend.
The linebacking corps made some plays, but also missed tackles and showed a lack of speed. Glenn Carson and Mike Hull combined for 15 solo tackles in the contest, however they didn’t make an impact in the backfield and looked slow on certain plays.
Stephen Obeng-Agyapong contributed just three solo tackles and dropped an easy interception. The speed of the linebackers was exploited in the passing game and on a few run plays. This wasn’t the best effort from ‘Linebacker U’.
The secondary was a huge reason Penn State left Bloomington, Indiana, with a loss. Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld had a field day against this secondary throwing for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Young cornerbacks Trevor Williams and Jordan Lucas struggled mightily with the Indiana receivers.
Cody Latimer had a career day against the secondary with nine catches for 140 yards. The lone bright spot of the day was the interception by junior safety Adrian Amos. This group has been inconsistent throughout the year and needs to gain confidence before the showdown with Michigan.
Special Teams: D
The special teams unit was abysmal in this contest. A bad snap on a field goal, a blocked field goal and a costly fumble by Eugene Lewis on a kick return hurt this team greatly. Sam Ficken can’t be blamed for the blocked kick and drilled his other field goal attempt from 30 yards. Punter Alex Butterworth had a 45.2 yard average on his punts, but was aided by a few lucky bounces. The special teams unit cannot afford to make crucial mistakes in upcoming weeks.
Bill O’Brien and his coaching staff put too much emphasis on the passing game again this week. O’Brien needs to use the ground game to supplement the passing attack in the future. The play calling was suspect at points, but this game can’t solely be blamed on coaching. I suspect Bill O’Brien will right the ship in upcoming weeks. He’s too good of a coach not to get Penn State back on track.
Penn State had few bright spots in this game. They need to shore up the defense and the playcalling. This was a step back for a Penn State team that looked poised to make noise in the Big 10 this year. This was the first lost by a Penn State team to Indiana in school history. The Nittany Lions will look to rebound with a win next week against Michigan.