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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades As Nittany Lions Beat Rutgers 20-7

by on November 18, 2018 10:00 AM

I imagine we will be talking about this game for weeks and weeks. Riveting stuff.

Penn State beat Rutgers 20-7 to improve to 8-3 overall and one game closer to closing out a 10-win season for the third straight year. This game was unremarkable, and if you turned it off I wouldn't blame you.

But I watched the whole thing, and here are the grades.

Offense: C

Penn State's offense is what it is. There are moments of good and bad, moments of excellence and averageness. Penn State scored 20, generated 322 yards of offense and had a fairly balanced attack. Trace McSorley attempted a season-high 37 passes while Miles Sanders charted 27 runs, a season and career-high for him.

Penn State was 11-for-19 on third down and didn't give up a sack all game.

This grade gets a knock because Penn State just didn't look good against a team it should have rolled over. Sanders averaging 3.3 yards a carry against one of the worst rush defense in the nation coupled with an injured McSorley made for a long afternoon of watching football. 

At the same time, with a game to go in the regular season the Nittany Lions aren't going to suddenly change over the span of a week. Can you grade a team lower for being consistently inconsistent? This grade is a C because Penn State has been better and should be better, but it isn't lower because this is what you've come to expect.

On a higher note though KJ Hamler had five catches while Jahan Dotson and Miles Sanders both had four. Multiple receiving targets having multiple catches isn't exactly par for the course with this offense. So credit to them for that.

Defense: B+

In many ways the main objective when you play Rutgers is to just let Rutgers do the work for you. Don't make any mistakes, don't fall over, avoid any big plays you weren't expecting. And Penn State managed to do just that on Saturday, especially early on in the game. Aside from a long Rutgers' drive to open the second half this game was pretty straightforward. 

Koa Farmer led the way with eight tackles and Micah Parsons looked confident in his first game in a starting role with a team-high five solo tackles. Penn State also forced four sacks and was on the receiving end of three turnovers. 

In total Rutgers had 234 yards of offense and just 46 of them through the air. Penn State gave up just one touchdown, but this grade is knocked down a bit for the fourth-down play that should have been a touchdown if not for a wide open Rutgers' drop. 

Special Teams: B

Penn State's special teams didn't really do anything bad but it didn't do much good either. Jake Pinegar made both of his kicks and that was about the only highlight. Penn State's punt return unit didn't get many chances and Blake Gillikin hit everything about 80 yards for three separate touchbacks. 

In a game the Nittany Lions shouldn't have lost, special teams is always a place where upsets can be born. Penn State avoided the big mistakes and in turn avoided any real upset threats. 

A good grade for not being bad, a knock on the grade for not doing much else. Sometimes not being noticed is a good thing.

Overall: C

It was an unremarkable game that dragged out into what you would expect. Penn State won comfortably, Rutgers never really threatened and everyone moves on with their week. Penn State has played better and has played worse. The Nittany Lions should have won by more and have won earlier, but such is life with this team. They were average.

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