Game Grades: Penn State vs Maryland
The only reason Hackenberg doesn’t receive an F is because he put together one drive in which he actually looked like a solid quarterback. On that drive he went 6-6 for 49 yards and the eventual touchdown pass to Jesse James. Other than that, it was a terrible performance for the sophomore who finished 18-42 for a measly 177 yards and an interception to go along with his touchdown. On a team that has no running attack, it becomes even harder to win when the passing attack is equally as mediocre. In fact, it’s been worse than mediocre since week three. Simply put, Hackenberg has to be much, much better.
Running Backs: D
Akeel Lynch was somewhat effective as he rushed for 51 yards on 21 carries. The team stats are awful, however. 41 rushing attempts, 42 yards. There is no way that you can succeed at a high level when your rushing attempts mirror your rushing yards; it just won’t happen. Fingers can, and will continue to point at the offensive line, but at some point you have to place a little blame on the other components of the running attack too. Lynch is far and away the best back Penn State has, so expect him to get most of the carries the rest of the way.
Wide Receiver/Tight Ends: B
You can’t give this group an A because they didn’t do anything to drastically alter the outcome of the game, but at some point you just have to feel bad for them. When your passing attack fails to find any sort of a rhythm, it is hard to be productive as a receiver. DaeSean Hamilton is dynamic, Geno Lewis is tough to bring down, and Jesse James is the Jimmy Graham of the college football world. Imagine how good they could be if the passing game could ever get going? We may be left wondering for a while.
Offensive Line: F
They can’t protect Christian Hackenberg. Yes, Hack has to be better, but he takes an absolute beating every game and the line has to do something more to protect him. There are also instances where he has zero chance to get rid of the ball. The rushing game is also affected by the lackluster blocking of the o-line. 42 yards isn’t going to cut it by any means in any game, unless the passing game goes off, and that hasn’t happened. I don’t know if or when the line will get better, but it may not be this season.
Defensive Line: A
The line had four sacks on the day, including two from Deion Barnes. They held Maryland to 33 yards rushing on 31 attempts, essentially neutralizing the terrible run attack from Penn State. Penn State boasts the best rush defense in the country and the defensive line has been the most consistent aspect of this team all year. No complaints on this end.
Linebackers/ Safeties: A
The defense was not the problem for Penn State and it hasn’t been all season for the Nittany Lions. You start to feel bad for the unit because they are doing all they can to give the offense a chance to score, and the offense isn’t holding up their end. Maryland only passed for 161 yards yet still won the game. Marcus Allen filled in well again for Ryan Keiser as he added a sack to an all-around solid game.
Special Teams: D
Sam Ficken is good. He went 4-4 on field goals including three from over 40-yards out. He’s the lion’s best offensive player outside of DaeSean Hamilton. On the other side Penn State’s punt game is awful. Danny Pasquariello averaged less than 40 yards a punt for the second game in a row and Maryland often had very good field position. Just another unit that is underperforming for the Nittany Lions.
Game Experience: D
As far as crowds go, it wasn’t bad for the Nittany Lions as 103,969 fans showed up. However, the student section was fairly empty and the crowd was hushed for most of the game as Penn State’s stagnant offensive gave the fans little to cheer about. It’s hard to get excited about a team that has lost four straight.
Coaching Staff: C
It's hard to blame a staff for offensive incompetency, especially when it is clearly not just about the play calling. However, Franklin's staff still hasn't made the necessary adjustments. Why Penn State still runs the wildcat is beyond my comprehension, and the fact that the offense only ever tries to throw deep down field once or twice a game is a head scratcher. Yes the o-line is bad, but hack has a big arm, so take some shots.
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Jack Milewski is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.