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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following A 13-7 Victory Over Indiana

by on November 09, 2014 6:00 AM

It wasn't a pretty game and it wasn't a fun one to watch, but it was a win for Penn State for the first time after a four game losing streak.

The Nittany Lions now stand only a win away from a bowl game and with two very winnable games remaining on the schedule (three in total.)

So while this season may feel like it has dragged on, sometimes a win is all it takes to turn the ship around with a winning record still very much within reach.

Here's how the grades shape up after Penn State's hard fought 13-7 victory over Hoosiers.

Offense: C-

Penn State's offense has basically been a copy-and-paste job when it comes to the week-to-week grades. We've seen an on-going mix of difficulty running the ball, a hard time passing on a consistent basis and short drives far more often than long ones. 

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That being said the Nittany Lions did a few good things this weekend. Hackenberg connected down field on a number of passes to tight ends and receivers, racking up positive gains in areas of the field Penn State has rarely attacked in Big Ten play. And while 92 of Bill Belton's 137 yards came on one play he still picked up 45 yards on 15 carries to complement Akeel Lynch's 47 yards on 13 carries. It wasn't an overly impressive performance on the ground but it was an effective one and that's a step forward. 

Christian Hackenberg was sacked at least twice when he should have gotten rid of the ball. That plus two interceptions (one his fault that resulted in a pick-6, another not) hurts the overall grade. 

Penn State's offense did a few things better than it had in the past, but 4-of-17 on third down and an inability to perform on a consistent basis keeps this grade from going any higher.

Defense: A

For as many bad things as you can copy-and-paste for the offense you have good things to say about the defense. Mike Hull shook off a slow start and the Nittany Lions held Tevin Coleman well below his 160 yard average on the ground. The defense pitched a shutout for a full 60 minutes. Zander Diamont was okay at quarterback and scrambled for 58 yards but was otherwise a non-issue. The Hoosiers going 3-for-17 on third down wasn't flattering for the Indiana offense and a 3.8 yards per carry fell well under the team's usual average.

Overall Penn State's defense made the stops it has made all season and a Nyeem Wartman interception all but won the game for Penn State as Indiana looked to pull off the improbable upset in the final minutes.

Special Teams: C+

Sam Ficken went 2-for-3 on the day with makes from 27 and 28 yards with his only miss coming at the hands of an aggressive kick block by Indiana. Ficken remains perfect on the year when the ball goes beyond the line of scrimmage. Penn State's kick coverage was solid all game. Daniel Pasquariello averaged 37.3 yards a punt on 9 kicks and more importantly avoided any shanks and even added a 48 yard boomer to the mix. 

Jesse Della Valle's interference call on a kickoff was simply a poor decision and that falls on him and hurts the overall grade. Indiana did have negative return yards following punts which is half due to Della Valle's defensive efforts and half to bad decision making by Hoosier return men.

A blocked field goal, a penalty that could have been avoided and only a slightly improved punting average hurt this grade. A long punt and crucial field goals coupled with good return defense helps the grade. For a unit that has been up-and-down aside from Ficken this was one of the more consistent games even if consistent isn't good enough yet.

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