Game Grades: Purdue
Penn State's 62-24 win over Purdue was the definition of a team victory. After being knotted up at 17 with a 3-4 Boilermaker side heading into the half, the Nittany Lions outscored their opponents 45-7 for the rest of the game. The offense clicked, the defense stood firm and the coaches put together a perfect game plan. It may not have been easy at first, but James Franklin's squad had one of the most dominating performances in recent program history.
Trace McSorley had another terrific outing, throwing for 228 yards and three touchdowns. While his completion percentage was just above 50 percent, his playmaking abilities made up for the incompletions. McSorley scrambled out of multiple blitzes and stayed poised when Purdue kept things close in the first half. He did struggle to run the ball, however, ending with two yards on five carries. Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens made his second appearance of the season, completing a 26-yard pass and rushing for 31 yards on five attempts. Despite his lack of experience, the redshirt freshman looked comfortable on the field.
Running backs: A
What a day it was for perhaps Penn State's most talented position group. Saquon Barkley put up another 200-plus yard performance, going for 207 rushing yards and 70 receiving yards. One of two scores was a career long 81-yard run. Andre Robinson saw the field for the first time in three weeks and had a career-high two touchdown runs. Freshman phenom Miles Sanders had a receiving touchdown and the speedy Mark Allen ran one in from the one yard line. Perhaps most impressive were their pass protection abilities. All four picked up blitzes and allowed McSorley and Stevens to stay on their feet.
Wide Receivers: B-
Chris Godwin continued his dominant season against Purdue, hauling in five catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns. No other receivers had more than one reception. In his first career start, Irvin Charles had a 26-yard grab. Saeed Blacknall and DaeSean Hamilton each had a catch, but it would have been nice to see them make a few more plays. The Nittany Lions were without DeAndre Thompkins, their number two option at receiver.
Tight Ends: B-
This grade is hampered by the fact that only one tight end had a catch (Mike Gesicki for 24 yards), but overall the group did well. Gesicki, Tom Pancoast and Jonathan Holland helped pave the way for the Nittany Lion running backs to go wild.
Offensive Line: A
This group continues to mesh and develop under new coach Matt Limegrover. Purdue only had one sack and had trouble penetrating into the backfield. The line opened up running lanes that led to 257 yards on the ground and 6.8 yards per carry. Special recognition to the right side of the line, most notably right tackle Brendan Mahon. 195 of Saquon Barkley's 207 yards came off of the right tackle.
It wasn't pretty early on, as Purdue put up 17 first half points while this unit struggled to slow down the Boilermakers' quick passes. Yet, the home team would only see the end zone one more time for the rest of the game. A Brandon Smith interception turned the tide early in the third quarter, one of three turnovers forced by the defense. They held their opponent to less than two yards per carry. The secondary shined once again. The secondary struggled to shut down the right arm of quarterback David Blough, but they did more than enough to keep receivers in front of them. Jason Cabinda chalked up another quality performance with a team-high nine tackles. Cabinda, Penn State's leading tackler in 2015, has been an enormous boost for the defense since he returned to the lineup against Ohio State following an injury.
Special Teams: A-
Tyler Davis remained perfect on field goals that weren't blocked with two kicks against Purdue. He also remained perfect on extra points. Joey Julius had five touch backs as Penn State's kick coverage team held Purdue to about 19 yards per return. Blake Gillikin averaged over 41 yards per punt with a long of 52. Ty Yazujian forced a fumble on one of those punts, which was recovered by Jordan Smith. The Lions special teams has been a strength all year long and Saturday was no different.
In a game that some viewed as a potential trap game, the coaching staff had the Lion ready to go from the kickoff. Coming off of an emotional win over Ohio State, there were questions about how the team would respond to a hungry Purdue team in a quiet environment. Credit the coaches for having the players motivated and focused. Once again, halftime adjustments were the key, as the Nittany Lions outscored Purdue 45-7 in the second half. Bonus points for getting in some younger players as well.
Jonathan Gross is a sophomore double-majoring in broadcast journalism and international politics. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.