Game Grades: Penn State vs. Villanova

Story posted September 27, 2021 in

The Nittany Lions moved to 4-0 on Saturday following a 38-17 win over Villanova. In a game where the blue and white dominated from the start, fans were able to see the reserve players get playing time towards the end of the game.

Let’s take a look at how each side of the ball fared in Saturday’s victory.

Offense: B+

Despite scoring 38 points during the game, it’s tough to give this group an A grade on the game.

Sean Clifford had a career day with a career-high 401 passing yards and four touchdowns becoming only the second Penn State quarterback to throw for that many yards in a single game. While Clifford’s stat line was hurt by an interception on a pass that went off the hands of KeAndre Lambert-Smith, the senior quarterback had one of his best games as a Nittany Lion.

The receiving trio of Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington and Lambert-Smith all had breakout games with Dotson and Washington eclipsing the 100-yard receiving mark.

The running game however is what hurts the offensive unit. Starter Noah Cain only recorded one carry before re-aggravating an injury from the previous week. John Lovett and Keyvone Lee had most of the carries in the game but on their combined 18 attempts the two only picked up 66 yards on the ground.

Offensively, the Nittany Lions were one-dimensional which may work against Villanova but not against many of the opponents on their remaining schedule.

Defense: A

Penn State did not have much to complain about on the defensive side of the ball.

When the first team was on the field, the Wildcats were unable to find any offensive rhythm and put pressure on quarterback Daniel Smith all game long.

The Nittany Lions’ defense totaled three sacks and one interception which went to Ji’Ayir Brown. Similar to the Villanova defense, the Nittany Lions also effectively stopped the run only allowing 58 yards on the ground against the Wildcats running backs.

What prevents the defense from an A+ grade is what happened when the first team was taken out of the game.

The Wildcats were able to score 14 points in the fourth quarter as Smith threw two late touchdowns to make the final score look a little more respectable.

The Nittany Lions defense has been the strength of the team all season long. This game should help prepare the unit for bigger tests coming up in the next few weeks.

Coaching: A

Another A in the report card this week for Penn State as the coaching staff didn’t make many errors during the game.

Coach James Franklin made a smart decision in taking out running back Noah Cain who he felt wasn’t fully healthy to play in the game. While the running game wasn’t as effective during the game, Franklin and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich adapted and relied more on Clifford who led a strong passing attack.

The Nittany Lions did stall as a whole once the starters were taken out as the Wildcats scored two late touchdowns and nearly had a third on a Tank Smith fumble which was called back.

We’ll see how those first-teamers play the rest of the season as they start playing conference opponents.

Logan Bourandas is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email lxb5412@psu.edu.