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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following A 42-13 Win Over Michigan

by on October 22, 2017 11:00 AM

That was something else, Penn State pretty well blowing the doors off a Michigan team that rarely gives up points, yards, chances and just about anything on defense. The Nittany Lions struck first, and short of the second quarter never really looked back en route to a convincing 42-13 final.

In short Penn State was the better team in every area and that was clearer and clearer the longer the game went along. Michigan managed to make things close after taking an early punch, but the Wolverines didn't really have the staying power. On a night Penn State wanted to make a statement but just winning, the Nittany Lions did that and more in emphatic fashion than anyone expected.

Offense: A

For a unit that will probably never meet the expectations fans have set for it the Nittany Lions did everything well on Saturday night against a defense that should have given Penn State fits. A wildcat wrinkle later and Saquon Barkley was 69 yards down the field and into the endzone. Beyond that Penn State tested Michigan's single coverage and won more of those battles than not in the process. DeaSean Hamilton's renascence continued as he pulled down six catches for 115 yards.

While Trace McSorley was a little shaky in the early going, his second half was outstanding and his legs made plays in a big way as he ran for three touchdowns and threw for one to Barkley. McSorley has now thrown a touchdown pass in 22 straight games, second best in the nation.

Beyond that Penn State gave up two sacks all night and converted four of seven third downs against a defense that is the best in the nation in that area. 506 yards of offense nearly split between running and passing, touchdowns, big plays, key drives. There were a few miscues and almosts, but Penn State will win a lot of games if it plays like that. 

Defense: A

Seven sacks, eight tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and one recovery, just 269 yards of total offense given up. There isn't much more you could have asked for from this defense. Penn State came into the game hearing about Michigan's vaunted unit and left having reminded everyone why the Nittany Lions can make a claim of their own to that No. 1 spot among the defensive corps in the nation.

Jason Cabinda was outstanding with 13 tackles while Koa Farmer had a quietly effective seven tackle night. Shareef Miller was effective from the edge and Penn State's secondary was as good as ever. Michigan has a good number of offensive issues all on its own, but Penn State's defense never really broke.

End of the day the Nittany Lions are playing championship defense right now, and that was all the more evident on Saturday night.

Special Team: B+

Considering this group didn't actually do anything wrong and still bumping the grade down is a little unfair but the only reason it isn't higher is simply because Penn State avoided having to use its field goal unit at all. Tyler Davis was otherwise perfect with his extra points and consistent on kickoffs. Blake Gillikin only had to punt twice and averaged 49.5 yards with a 56-yard long to flip the field.

Penn State's return units didn't get much going, but Michigan punted in a way to keep DeAndre Thompkins from returning kicks and frankly didn't score enough to give Barkley many chances on kickoffs.

All told big games are often determined by special teams, and Penn State made sure that in the very least this group wasn't a liability. And if anything, it was an asset.

Overall: A

Biggest game of the year to date for Penn State and the Nittany Lions passed with flying colors. Are there things to pick apart? Sure. But against one of the best defensive teams in the country Penn State was largely its usual effective self. Joe Moorhead won the battle of the coordinators and Penn State's title hopes are alive and kicking for another week.

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