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Handing Out The Grades Following Penn State's Loss To Michigan State

by on November 30, 2014 7:00 AM

Penn State's football team took one on the chin Saturday afternoon, losing to Michigan State by a score of 34-10.

The game, played in a chilly Beaver Stadium, was the final regular season contest for Nittany Lions who finish the year with a 6-6 record.

There were some familiar problems for Penn State and some flashes of brilliance as well. Here's how the grades stack up:

Offense: C-

All things considered Penn State's offense looked more competent than usual on Saturday despite the obligatory stalled drives, missed opportunities and lack of real punching power. Christian Hackenberg looked better than he has as of late, throwing plenty of impressive balls while going 21-of-45 for 195 yards with a few drops and no-calls in the mix. Hackenberg's only interception really wasn't his fault as Chris Godwin bobbled a pass into a defender's hands. It came at a bad time though following an Anthony Zettel interception that gave Penn State a chance to make it a 13-9 halftime score that was instead held at 13-3.

The Nittany Lions were 6-of-16 on third down and only had two fewer first downs than Michigan State. Twenty-two carries for 38 yards really hurt Penn State's grade here even with a 26 yard burst down the sideline by Akeel Lynch.

It says a lot about Penn State's offense that it can have a fairly ineffective game scoring 3 points on two drives inside the Michigan State 50 and still overall looked more effective than usual. The Nittany Lions' 10 play, 79 yard touchdown drive in the third quarter was well executed across the board but was simply too little too late.

Defense: B+

Penn State's defense held Michigan State to 6 points in the first half and only 9 more yards of offense than Penn State through three quarters of play. Jeremy Langford had 118 yards on the ground on 30 carries but a good number of those yards came when the game was already decided. Similarly, despite giving up a few key plays in the secondary, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook had completed only 4 passes well into the third quarter. He would eventually finish with 13 completions for 180 yards but was largely a non-issue for a good portion of the game.

Adrian Amos had a strong game in the secondary with at least one key breakup and Mike Hull went out of Beaver Stadium with a 13 tackle performance.

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Penn State's defense has done more than enough to help Penn State win games, but eventually the Spartans were just too much for the Nittany Lions to hold back forever. A 14 point third quarter pulled Michigan State away from an upset minded Penn State, but two touchdown drives of 20 or fewer yards didn't give Mike Hull and company much room to work with. The game could have been over a lot sooner in fact if not for key stops in the red zone early in the first quarter.

The Nittany Lions didn't do enough to stop Michigan State, but they did enough. A better Penn State offense would have scored and kept things close and in turn giving the defense a rest.

The grade takes a hit because of the end result, but it's hard to say Penn State's defense had a poor game against a team as good as Michigan State.

Special Teams: D+

Michigan State returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown wasn't how anyone planned to open the game and a missed field goal by Sam Ficken doesn't help the grade either.

Daniel Pasquariello is the lone positive for this unit as 3 of his 5 punts were downed well inside the 20. His kicks averaged 40 yards with one going for 63 yards. Some of his success had to do with his gunners getting the ball before it trickles into the end zone, but they don't have a chance to make that play if he doesn't punt it well. After being a sore spot for so long there appears to be some stability.

Nine points that hurt Penn State were a direct result of this unit, so it's hard to grade higher than a D until you add in good punting.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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