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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades As Nittany Lions Beat Iowa 30-24

by on October 28, 2018 9:00 AM

Penn State didn't do it for a third straight home game, hanging on for dear life to bet Iowa 30-24 at a soggy Beaver Stadium on Saturday. It wasn't always pretty, but the Nittany Lions did a decent job in all three phases even if all three of those same phases had ugly moments too.

In the end the Nittany Lions won against a Top 20 team, scored 30 points and made game-changing plays. These grades reflect that, even if there are still plenty of issues to fix moving forward.

Offense: B

Iowa's defense is pretty good, especially up front. So in that light the idea Penn State was just going to march around on the Hawkeyes was never reasonable. So in turn if you take 30 points, two quarterbacks, and generally suboptimal weather you take what you can get. Penn State had some drops early but it was far less of an issue than it had been before. Jahan Dotson looked confident in a more active role and KJ Hamler continues to improve his ball skills.

Miles Sanders had a long night with 62 yards on 17 carries, but considering Iowa's defensive front he was never going to see big holes to run through. Trace McSorley bumps this grade for somehow putting his leg back together and playing better after the fact. His 51-yard touchdown was about as unexpected as it gets given his alleged condition and a 14.9 yards per catch average was respectable as well. Trace does get a knock for a rare interception that seemed like a misplaced ball rather than a deflection.

All in all this unit went 4-for-14 on third down, gave up a modest three sacks and fumbled away the ball yard from a 17-point lead. That being said, this group did a good job after going down 12-0 to get back into the game when it looked like Iowa was going to pull ahead even farther after a very bizarre opening few minutes.

This group can play better, it has also played worse. The grade is high because 30 points against Iowa counts for something and scoring on a stretch of three of four drives seems like a rarity in Big Ten play. DeAndre Thompkins also had five catches and looked maybe the best he has all year.

Defense: B

Penn Stat held Iowa to less than 200 yards of offense through three quarters and played one of its best all around games on Saturday. The thing that is once again hurting the grade is the late fourth quarter surges. It's worth noting Penn State's offense could help this cause significantly with longer drives late in games, but it can't take all the blame.

Even so it's about the plays you make and Nick Scott made the one that probably saved the game for Penn State. He could have had a career day if he kept his hands on at least one fumble, but a key interception inside of four minutes to go counts for quite a lot all on its own.

Yetur Gross-Matos was possessed with seven solo tackles and two sacks. Micah Parsons wasn't quite as sharp this weekend but did still manage seven tackles and is generally trending in the right direction. Amani Ourwariye was solid in coverage with two breakups and John Reid continues to look more and more like the impactful player he was prior to his injury last year.

End of the day this group didn't give up a touchdown to Iowa's offense and made plays when it had to. You can nitpick, but it's hard to argue with the overall results, even if those results were decided by a slim margin. Iowa also went 7-for-20 on third down, which seems less than ideal.

Special Teams: C

I mean at least this group figured out a new and interesting way to do something wrong. It's genuinely hard to have two safeties in a game, let alone the same obscure way. But all things considered this group did slightly more good than bad, which is an improvement from the past few weeks.

Jake Pinegar has started to show why he was a coveted kicker with three makes from over 40 yards, all with a certain amount of pressure behind them. If Penn State can get consistent work out of Pinegar down the stretch and heading into next season, that'll go along way towards getting points out of drives. Credit where it's due for him turning his season around. Especially in less than great kicking conditions.

KJ Hamler also boosts this grade with his long kick off return. Even if Penn State's return game is sporadic, there's no doubt Hamler is a threat every time he touches the ball. Blake Gillikin isn't really to be blamed from the second safety, and only partially for the first. In either case this wasn't his best outing, but he did have a few very good punts in the second half that Penn State needed at those moments.

The only other bad thing was Iowa's fake punt/FG (?) that went for a touchdown. Talk about burying the lede.

All in all Pinegar's kicks and Hamler's return save this grade. There was some awful football in this group at times, but overall it probably made more positively impactful plays than negative ones. 

Small steps.

Overall: B

If you're going to knock a team for losing close games you have to give them credit for winning them. Did Iowa almost rip the hearts out of fans for a third-straight home game? Yep, but Nick Scott made a play and it doesn't matter where on the field it happens, just that it does. Special teams was only a partial train wreck, the offense scored 30 points, the defense forced turnovers and there wasn't a moment that made you really scratch your head on Penn State's side of things.

They won, they scored 30 points, they made field goals and defensive stops. You take all of that in conference play. It'll have to be better against Michigan, but a win is a win.

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