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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following 38-14 Victory Over Maryland

by on October 09, 2016 11:15 AM

Penn State took care of business on Saturday picking up the fourth win of the season and a second victory in Big Ten play. With over 300 yards on the ground and an effective air attack, this was one of the most complete games under James Franklin.

Offense: A

All things considered it's hard to imagine a game that Penn State's offense plays better. Sure there were miss opportunities and a few drives that went backwards, but 38 points, 372 yards on the ground and 152 through the air is about as balanced as you get. The sign of an offense working shouldn't be if every drive is perfect, simply that it's able to get back on track and move the ball. The Nittany Lions were 5-of-13 on third don which is an improvement on earlier struggles as recently as last week.

Saquon Barkley was in his best form with a career high 202 yards and a 45-yard touchdown run to show for it. Similarly, Trace McSorley had perhaps his best game as starting quarterback with 81 yards on the ground and 152 through the air. If anything is surprising about this performance it's simply that Chris Godwin didn't catch a single pass. DeAndre Thompkins continues to be a deep ball threat with a 70-yard touchdown and Mikes Gesicki had an efficient 4 catches for 26 yards. DeaSean Hamilton also came up with two good grabs. Penn State was almost entirely a ground attack team on Saturday but when the ball had to be thrown a 10-for-19 mark and two TDs is just about all you can ask for.

This wasn't the best offensive performance in all of college football on Saturday, but this is as about as good as Penn State has looked all year so it has to be an A. 

Defense: B+

Maryland's schedule made the 4-0 mark and 40+ points on three occasions a bit of a misleading set of stats, but the Terrapins were still a threat to score in bunches on Saturday and they didn't. Outside of a long touchdown run early in the game and a short field to work with on the only other touchdown of the day, Maryland really had nothing to show for its efforts. Penn State's defense only gave up two drives all day that lasted over three minutes and one of them came while the game was well in hand.

Brandon Smith picked up his first career interception, which felt like a bit of karma for the incorrect ejection call a few weeks prior. Koa Famer also had a sack fumble that was about as violent as they come. Maryland quarterback Perry Hills missing some of the game due to injury didn't help the overall numbers but the Terps finished with just 270 yards of offense and 4-of-13 on third down. Ty Johnson had two catches for 69 yards but really nobody on the Maryland offense did much of note consistently throughout the game.

Special Teams: B

A blocked punt hurts this grade, but the face Will Likely was held to a punt return long of five yards flips it back in the positive. Penn State's return game was unremarkable but the offense was doing well enough that it wasn't a game of field position to being with. Miles Sanders continues to show glimpses of why he could be a good return man but a fumble, that he recovered, and a question return decision early in the game show some of his youth. Blake Gillikin appears to be hurt in some fashion but Daniel Pasquariello got the job done on his two punts, both landing inside the 20. This unit has had better days, but Maryland's best weapon was held in check, which is about all you can ask for. 

Joey Julius did have a kick go out of bounds as well.

Overall: A

End of the day Penn State played its most complete game of the season against team that at least in theory was one of the better opponents on the schedule so far. The Nittany Lions will have to play even better if they're going to hang with Ohio State, but all told this is about as good as it gets for this particular team.

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