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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades As Nittany Lions Beat Indiana 33-28

by on October 21, 2018 12:22 AM

Generally speaking, games, of all kinds, are expected to be close. Nobody plays chess because they think they're going to just obliterate their competition in five moves and call it a night. Nobody really expects a basketball game to be a blowout every time, nobody plays poker expecting to win every hand.

But the irony is so often football, for whatever reason, is seen as a poorly played game if the score is close or even if the score is low. You don't win by 20, you must be bad.

Now to be fair there is a wide rainbow of unpleasant ways to go about a close scoring game. If you don't believe me feel free to watch a Rutgers/Maryland game.

For Penn State on Saturday afternoon it was a little bit of everything. It says something about where the program is that a 33-point game on the road in the Big Ten can be seen as something of a unappealing flop of a performance. And while nobody is going to be saving the tape from this game to show their kids, it wasn't all bad.

So here are the grades.

Special Teams: D, C, A

You know how in Game of Thrones it can be hard to remember how many people have died and who killed them? Penn State's special teams on Saturday is a laundry list of good things, bad things, ugly things and awesome things. It's just a mess. I'm going to forget a mistake somewhere in here because I didn't realize I was going to need to keep a list of them.

But it sure felt like every punt return was muffed. It seemed like half the returns were fumbled by both teams. KJ Hamler is fast, Indiana seemed to forget that. Johnathan Thomas managed to finally have a ball land in his arms and return a kick 94-yards out of the blue because hey why not. Jake Pinegar, who seemingly couldn't kick a ball through the uprights, which is odd and not good if you're a kicker, started nailing them in 30 MPH winds because why not.

There was the onside kick that Indiana recovered after Penn State called a timeout to make sure Indiana wouldn't recover and onside kick. There was Blake Gillikin who is trying hard but not doing so well, he even managed to get a random James Franklin shoutout after the game for not being as good as he should be.

There was the fourth down fake punt which sure seemed like a bad idea and boy did it play out like a bad idea.

I'm a big believer in football being harder than it looks from the press box, but I don't think it should be this hard.

Hamler and Thomas get As. Pinegar gets a C because his kicks are not pretty even if they work. The unit as a whole gets a D because there isn't a phase that Penn State didn't make a mistake with, so how can that be a good thing.

Offense: B-

At some point here everyone just has to embrace the fact this offense isn't going to look as pretty as you might like. 33 points, the Tommy Stevens package finally went in the correct direction, Miles Sanders had six catches and 72 yards on 15 carries. Trace McSorley tried his damndest not to lose again and managed to throw 220 yards and rush for 107 more in the process. 

The line was okay sometimes and not okay other times. 

And then there is the receiving corps. My above note about football being hard still stands, but catching the football is like one of the three basic skills pretty much everyone should have if they're interested in playing football. I'm going to assume that Penn State's receivers are interested in playing football. But sometimes you wonder. Drops are an issue, still, and it's hard to know how that will change and if it will.

5-15 of third down isn't exactly lighting the house on fire but after converting a total of six against Michigan State and Ohio State, five is like sending a human to the Moon.

If you get over the fact it looks ugly sometimes, Penn State's offense was effective enough on Saturday to get a few pats on the back. Plus winning helps the grade.

Defense: B

Penn State's defense is never going to turn into a 14ppg team this year so much like the offense people should probably stop expecting it to. in turn Garrett Taylor continued to do a good job taking the ball from the other team, Micah Parsons continues to look comfortable on the field and Penn State held the lead in the fourth quarter when it had to.

And oh, Shaka Toney, who had four sacks after apparently drinking 15 Red Bulls at the half.

I hesitate to say this group played really well, but it made some internal strides, it won, and at times it look dominant in the moment it had to. End of the day it's more important to make big plays in big moments than it is to expect to win a game by pitching a shutout.



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