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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following 29-26 Win Over Minnesota

by on October 02, 2016 1:50 PM

Penn State played poorly in the first half, adjusted and found a way to tie the game late in regulation to eventually win in overtime. It wasn't always pretty but a win is a win, so here are the grades from the Nittany Lions' win over Minnesota.

Offense: B

While the Nittany Lions were far from perfect on the afternoon there was plenty of positives to take from the comeback win. A 190 yard, 17 point third quarter after scoring just three points in the first half comes to mind. McSorley went 19-of-40 on the afternoon but still managed to rush for a touchdown and an 80-yard strike to Irvin Charles.

Saquon Barkley was held in check for most of the game until his 25-yard score in overtime picked up the victory. His 20 carries for 63 yards was a fairly pedestrian outing for one of the nation's most talented running backs.

The receivers shook off a poor performance against Michigan as Chris Godwin hauled in four catches on 10 targets for 97 yards. Mike Gesicki also continue his strong play with a five catch 70-yard evening that gave him yet another solid performance on the year. The offense as a whole went 4-of-14 on third down after going 0-for-7 in the first half. 

Penn State avoided turnovers against a veteran defense and manage to adjust when it absolutely had to. For the fourth game this year the offense also scored more points in the second half than the first. An eight-play, 53-yard drive at the end of regulation to tie the game was a clutch moment for this group that had until that moment, yet to put together a game defining/saving drive.

All told it wasn't pretty in the first half, looked better in the second so the good and bad makes this an above average grade for a unit that needed a bounce back performance and got it. Offensive line has to improve for this grade to go up.

Defense: B-

Honestly this group has to be graded on a curve. Every linebacker on this roster is hurt or banged up, in actuality seven are out or hurt and that included Brandon Smith and Jake Cooper picking knocks during the game. Beyond that it was Marcus Allen as the last line of defense with 22 tackles, just two off of the program record in a single game. Allen was also credited with a facemask penalty during a significant loss of yardage by Minnesota that could have very well iced the game.

Minnesota had 335 yards of offense, which all things considered is a respectable number for Penn State's depleted defense against a team that has scored 30+ every game this season heading into Saturday. The Gophers converted 6-of-17 on third down but quarterback Mitch Leidner was an effective 24-for-40 but a Anthony Smith interception in the end zone was as much a good defensive play as it was a poor throw by Leidner. Either way Penn State's defense came up with a key turnover, and managed to bend, not break, when it had to most. The Gophers also lost four yards during their overtime possession thanks to a timely sack and good coverage down the field.

This group didn't play great, but at some point it isn't entirely their fault with all the injuries and position changes. Defense is learning how to play as a taped together bunch and on Saturday that got the job done.

Special Teams: A

Tyler Davis set the Penn State record for consecutive made field goals and nailed a 40-yarder to tie the game at the end of regulation. Joey Julius didn't kill anyone this game but had a chance to. Blake Gillikin was solid at the punting spot with a 39 yard average. John Reid wasn't a factor in the punt return game but that was as much Minnesota's coverage as anything else. All told this until did it's job and didn't make mistakes. About all you can ask for from special teams.

Overall: B-

This offense should be more consistent than it is, but that will probably come with the passage of time. Penn State's offensive front also needs to improve for this program to take the next step, Saquon Barkley was himself at the moment Penn State needed him the most, the defense did just enough to win and special teams continue to not be a weakness, which is its own kind of strength.

This game was a tale of two halves but winning counts for something so the overall grade gets a bump up from C+

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