Game Grades: Penn State vs. Northwestern

Story posted November 8, 2015 in CommRadio, Sports by Brandon Pelter

The No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats kicked the game-winning field goal with nine seconds left to defeat the Nittany Lions 23-21. Down 13-7, the Wildcats returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown right before the half. Penn State scored two second half touchdowns, including a wide receiver reverse pass that ended with Geno Lewis throwing a touchdown pass to DaeSean Hamilton. Here are the game grades for the game:

Quarterback: B

On the stat sheet, Christian Hackenberg didn’t have a poor outing against a solid Wildcat defense. He threw for 205 yards, but he did throw an interception and did not have a touchdown. Although he has been progressing, his inconsistent passes continued and interesting play-calling certainly did not help him set a rhythm. Hackenberg did a good job moving around in the pocket to manufacture more time for plays to develop and was only brought down twice behind the line of scrimmage. 

Running Backs: B

The Saquon Barkley show continued in Evanston as the freshman ran for 120 yards on 25 carries. These definitely weren’t the number that we’re accustomed to from the 5-11 back, but Northwestern, similar to Maryland, keyed in on Barkley and were determined to shut down the run game. Taking a step back, 4.8 yards per carry isn’t too bad when you’re the focus of a defense’s game plan.

Wide Receivers: B

Led by Chris Godwin with 104 yards, the wide receivers played fairly well against a good Northwestern defense. Third-down routes short of the first-down marker were certainly confusing, but that isn’t on the wide receiving core. Godwin had eight catches while Hamilton had three for 56 yards. This might belong under the quarterback column, but Geno Lewis certainly looked good on his 32-yard pass to Hamilton, certainly a play to keep in the back of James Franklin’s playbook.

Tight Ends: D

When an offense struggles to gain momentum, it certainly doesn’t help when wide open passes are dropped. Mike Gesicki certainly didn’t lose the game for the Nittany Lions, but one catch for five yards certainly didn’t help their cause when he had plenty in and out of his hands.

Defense: C

Definitely not a terrible outing for the Penn State defense, but a poorly timed dropped interception basically summed up the Nittany Lions’ day of defense. They were in position most of the time, but when it mattered most, something went wrong. They allowed 227 rushing yards and 169 passing, but on a crucial third and long, they dropped the ball on a missed coverage that will surely be watched time and time again.

Special Teams: F

This one is going to be kept plain and simple. A 96 yard kickoff return after you score a touchdown of the game is not good. Averaging 41.6 yards per punt is not good either. A defense, no matter how good, cannot defend a short field for the entire game.

Coaching: D

The first half of the game portrayed the dreadful offensive play calling of John Donovan. The second half portrayed the dreadful time management skills of James Franklin. This week, both the players and coaches must take responsibility for this loss. There certainly has to be player accountability when balls are being dropped and the secondary blows coverage’s, but at the same time, this was week 10. Penn State had the opportunity to jump into the AP Top 25 Poll and possibly even the College Football Playoff rankings, but all around they dropped the ball in more ways than one.

Brandon Pelter is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. To contact him, email