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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following A 35-6 Win Over Rutgers

by on November 12, 2017 10:00 AM

With the boys back in town, Saturday was basically an exercise in taking care of business for the Nittany Lions who slept walked through the first quarter, waking up in time to roll to a 35-6 victory over Rutgers.

Where Penn State has looked the part a Top 10 team, the Nittany Lions certainly didn't have to flex those muscles quite as much on Saturday even with the slow start. Rutgers' one-dimensional offense offered little in the way of a true test for Penn State's defense and the Nittany Lions even on a less than explosive day, managed to exploit good field position and their host of weapons to overwhelm the Rutgers defense.

Even so a game is a game, and the grades are the grades.

Offense: B

All things considered Penn State did well for itself when the Nittany Lions realized the game had begun. Trace McSorley was effective on his feet, a 20-yard touchdown scamper one of his better runs of the year. He also went 16-for-21 for 214 yards and two scores after a throw-heavy weekend against Michigan State.

Penn State hasn't really figured out the running game and at this point it seems safe to assume that isn't going to change. Saquon Barkley managed 35-yards on 14 carries and was a non factor from the standpoint of actually carrying the ball. Juwan Johnson continues to play well with five catches for 78 yards and the combo of Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton continues to be as dependable as any in the conference.

Saturday also featured an unexpected Brandon Polk sighting as he hauled in a nice 13-yard reception, and Penn State managed four third down conversions on nine attempts.

All told, this group wasn't overly impressive but it was effective and got the job done. The running game and a slow first quarter knock this grade down a peg, but 35 points is 35 points. 

Defense: A

Rutgers isn't exactly putting the fear of God into anyone on offense and Penn State's defense showcased why. Aside from a few scrambles, the Scarlet Knights had little in the way of a consistent offensive attack and managed just 200 yards of offense, much of which gained on a final meaningless drive.

Rutgers stuck to its guns that had won its three of the last four, running for 157 yards on 39 carries. A solid clip, but hardly anything that was going to push Penn State's defense down the field over and over again. The Nittany Lions held Rutgers to three conversions on third down on 15 tries and didn't allow a single touchdown on three red zone chances.

This grade would be higher, but the lack of turnovers, albeit against a team not really putting the ball up for grabs, knocks this grade down for the sake of splitting hairs. Jason Cabinda had 11 tackles and Brandon Smith added 10 in his starting debut on the year.

Special Teams: C

The opening kickoff was a bit of a mess and Tyler Davis had two kicks sail out of bounds on him. This performance didn't cost Penn State, but in principle those are the kinds of mistakes that would cost you against a better team. Blake Gillikin was his usual self going five punts for a 40.6 average, and a 53-yard bomb. Punting frequently with a shorter field, three of his punts were downed inside the 20 with only one turning into a touchback.

Barkley's 30-yard return was nice, but nothing about this group turned heads on Saturday. Sometimes though that's a good thing. Tyler Davis' has now made 122 straight PATs, a school record.

Overall: A

It is what it is. Penn State woke up, beat Rutgers and went back to bed. This game was never going to wow anyone and it's a good sign for Penn State that it didn't. The Nittany Lions looked like a team doing just enough to walk on by and it turned out it was more than enough against Rutgers. The Nittany Lions are going to be the favorite in each of their last two regular season games and could win both by a pretty wide margin. So while it's fun to split hairs, until the bowl game gets here, the Nittany Lions probably don't have to be the best version of themselves to win. They weren't on Saturday, and it hardly showed in the final score.

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