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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades As Nittany Lions Thump Kent State 63-10

by on September 16, 2018 9:50 AM

Well that was a game that happened. 63-10 somehow took way too long on a beautiful Saturday afternoon but the Nittany Lions' lead was never in doubt as they improved to 3-0 on the year.

Saturday marked the last time things will be easy as Big Ten play begins this Friday at Illinois. So for all of the good, the little details and little mistakes will be all the more magnified moving forward.

With that in mind, here are the grades.

Offense: A-

Tons of points and yards sums up the afternoon. Penn State looked the most balanced and the most effective that it has all year on Saturday. Sure, that might have to do with the opponent, but the Nittany Lions executed more often than not, and were able to move the ball through the air and on the ground with relative ease.

It was Trace McSorley's best game of the season in every facet and if fans were looking for their quarterback to show them signs he was fully warmed up and ready for Big Ten play this was that moment. McSorley had some of his best passes of the year on Saturday including a dart to KJ Hamler in the second half that was as good as any pass he has thrown in the Blue and White.

Miles Sanders continue to find his stride and put Saquon Barkley behind as he ran for 86 yards on 14 carries. It seems that Sanders might never really have the big time numbers Barkley put up, but a 6-yard per carry average and consistent ability to gain yards is a welcome sight for the often bipolar rushing attack of 2016 and 2017.

DeAndre Thompkins, KJ Hamler and Brandon Polk all seem ready to join the party with long receptions and scores.

Penn State was 6-for-6 in the red zone, 5-of-12 on third downs and 2-of-3 on fourth down.

The negatives: Dumb mistakes, drops, Juwan Johnson's continued struggles, and three touchdowns getting called back for penalties hurt this grade, but 63 points is 63 points. Those issues will have to be cleaned up in Big Ten play though.

Defense: A

Like every week there are good moments and bad moments from this bunch, but 10 points is what it is. Cam Brown led the way with seven tackles while Shareef Miller had two early third quarter sacks to end two separate drives. The Golden Flashes ended the afternoon with 221 yards of offense and if not for an interception going through the hands of Amani Oruwariye and into a receiver's, Kent State doesn't find the end zone.

A negative: what was with all the offsides penalties? That's a major mental error that should be easy to fix, but still has to be fixed.

Overall, giving up 10 points is about all you can ask for in a game like this.

Special Teams: B+

Hamler and Thompkins might be the best returning duo Penn State has had in a long time, if not ever. Both showed why on Saturday and both have made punt and kickoff returns a must-watch moment. A player who is getting lost in the shuffle? Rafael Checa who has turned kickoffs into a formality for Penn State after a few years of Tyler Davis and company struggling to earn touchbacks. 

The real negative here was another surprise onside kick recovered by Penn State's opponent. It seems like something like that should be preventable, and after the 2-for-2 success rate teams have had pulling it off, don't be surprised if a Big Ten opponent pulls it out of the bag somewhere down the road.

Blake Gillikin only had to punt twice and did his usual cannon-leg routine when asked to do so.

Again more good than bad, but the bad will have to be fixed.

Overall: B

63-10 is what it is, but this grade is dropped because despite how well Penn State played, there are moments that the Nittany Lions won't be able to get away with starting this week. Three touchdowns off the board, penalties extending drives and general miscues are just not going to cut it against the B1G boys. This was a great performance otherwise, but in a game that should have always been a lopsided win, it's the negatives that stand out more than the positives.

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