Game Grades: Penn State vs. Michigan

Story posted November 4, 2018 in Sports, CommRadio by Jake Starr

Penn State traveled to Ann Arbor and suffered a crushing 42-7 loss to Michigan. Pretty much everything went wrong for the Nittany Lions on Saturday. Let’s take a look back at that game and hand out game grades for each unit on Saturday.

Offense: F

There is no way to sugar coat it. Penn State’s offense was horrendous on Saturday night. Trace McSorley was obviously still bothered by his knee injury, showing very limited mobility throughout the afternoon. He completed just 5 of 13 passes for a mere 83 yards and one interception.

McSorley exited the game for a bit, and Tommy Stevens came in late in the third quarter. Stevens completed three of his four pass attempts for 35 yards and ran for a touchdown. However, his very first pass attempt was an interception returned for a touchdown on a pass that was nowhere near any Penn State receiver.

Penn State could get absolutely nothing going on the ground. Miles Sanders ran the ball seven times for 14 yards, getting stuffed by Michigan’s defensive line constantly. Stevens was Penn State’s leading rusher, carrying the ball ten times for 52 yards.

It was an absolutely abysmal day offensively for Penn State, turning in its worst loss since the 2016 loss at Michigan. Penn State will have a lot of questions to answer before its matchup against Wisconsin next Saturday.

Defense: C

Penn State’s defense is going to catch a lot of heat for giving up 35 points defensively in this game, but it should get the benefit of the doubt because it was on the field all day. Michigan dominated the time of possession, winning it 38 minutes to 22 minutes.

It was a close game early, as Penn State went into the half down 14-0. But as the Penn State offense failed to do anything, the defense got tired and the wheels came falling off. Michigan put up 21 points in the second half, leading to its blowout victory.

One of the areas in which Penn State’s defense struggled was in containing Shea Patterson on the ground. Penn State did a poor job of maintaining an edge, leading to big rush plays from Patterson on read options.

Penn State’s defense has made strides this year and this game should not change the opinion of how its defense has fared. It was put in a tough situation and eventually broke down. If the offense could have given the defense some help, then this game would have been far less embarrassing. 

Special Teams: B

There is not much to judge Penn State’s special teams on from this game. In the kicking game, Jake Pinegar made his lone PAT. Kickoff man Rafael Checa left the game with an injury, so we will see if he is able to play next week.

The return game was practically non-existent as KJ Hamler was able to make nothing happen in the punt and kickoff return game. Blake Gillikin punted the ball eight times, averaging 46.3 yards, with a long of 74 yards.

Coaching: D

Penn State’s coaching staff was put in a tough situation as McSorley seemed to be in no shape physically to play in that game. There were times when he shouldn’t have been out there, but it is tough to pull a guy like McSorley, who has proven to be a winner throughout his career.

This is one of those games where it is tough to pin entirely on the coaching staff, but it seemed that Penn State was not prepared to go into this game.

We’ll see how they look next week against Wisconsin. If Penn State doesn't bounce back, then there are going to be a lot of questions going forward.


Jake Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email