Game Grades: Rutgers
Tenth-ranked Penn State (10-2, 7-2) finished off the regular season Saturday with a 27-6 win over Rutgers (0-9, 2-10) at Beaver Stadium. Although many backup players saw extended playing time, including redshirt freshman quarterback Will Levis who filled in for the injured Sean Clifford, the win was much uglier than expected. Let’s hand out some grades to each unit from Saturday’s game:
Levis really struggled in his first start as a Nittany Lion. He finished with just 81 passing yards, 44 of those coming on a touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Journey Brown stepped up to the plate when the passing game wasn’t working. He finished with 103 yards and three touchdowns to make this somewhat of a blowout for the Nittany Lions.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Penn State had just a 13-6 lead before touchdowns from Dotson and Brown. Against a Rutgers team that is winless in the Big Ten and is one of the worst teams in the nation at defending the pass, this is very concerning for the offense. Hopefully they can figure things out before bowl season in about a month, and Clifford might be good to go by that time anyway.
For the fourth game in a row, the secondary was exposed and allowed some easy passes. Rutgers quarterback Johnny Langan threw for 164 yards, the second-highest for him this year. Although the defense didn’t allow any touchdown passes the whole game, they probably should have, as Rutgers receiver Bo Melton had open field after a reception in the first quarter before tripping on his own feet.
This defense as a unit just isn’t playing very smart football right now. They were completely fooled on a double flea-flicker play by Rutgers in the first quarter, giving up about 40 yards. Just three sacks on the day seemed concerning as well, but overall the defense got it done and gave the offense a chance to redeem themselves and solidify the victory.
Special Teams: A-
Not much to complain about or criticize here. No field goals were attempted by Penn State all game, and Jake Pinegar nailed three extra points. Jordan Stout was his normal self as he kicked touchbacks out of the endzone on kickoffs, and Blake Gillikin had a nice day with almost 200 total yards punting on four attempts. KJ Hamler had a solid performance in the return game, returning a punt for 24 yards and three kickoffs for a total of 78 yards.
With speculation mounting that head coach James Franklin could possibly leave the program after this season, many fans were probably okay with this heading into the fourth quarter up 13-6. Franklin and the coaching staff got it together, however, as the offense finally came alive for the final period of play.
But there’s one lingering question that everyone is wondering: Where has this top-10 defense gone the past four games, and what has the coaching staff done about it? Defensive coordinator Brent Pry will have to make some adjustments before Penn State’s bowl game, because the defense has undisputed talent and it should be playing better than it is right now.
Jack McCune is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Junior / Broadcast Journalism
Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism from Yardley, Pennsylvania, which is outside of Philly and just across the Delaware River from New Jersey. He attended Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. He’s a huge fan of the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, Penn State football and Penn State basketball. He’s a producer for CommRadio news and is a writer and broadcaster for CommRadio sports. His CommRadio show, Broad Street Bros, airs Thursday nights at 8:45, as he and co-host Andrew Field talk about Philly and Penn State sports. He hopes to some day become a play-by-play announcer for football, basketball and/or baseball, and he is also interested in becoming a bartender.