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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following Loss To Michigan

by on September 25, 2016 9:25 AM

Penn State lost 49-10 on Saturday to Michigan and there isn't a lot about that kind of afternoon that can be sugarcoated. So without further introduction here are the grades following Penn State's loss to Michigan.

Offense: D

Probably the most disappointing performance on the day came from the offense. Saquon Barkley managed over 130 yards of total offense but was effectively the only weapon as Penn State had just 199 all day, mostly in the final quarter. DaeSean Hamilton and Chris Godwin didn't record a catch until the fourth quarter and Penn State's offensive line was as porous as it has ever been. The Nittany Lions had 12 total first downs all game and managed to convert just two third downs all game.

Trace McSorley's 16-of-27 for 121 yards was hard noticeable but his incompletions were largely the result of throws that had to be made under pressure and a few moments too early due to that pressure. Which is to say that McSorley wasn't great on Saturday, but the reasons that he struggled were generally related to protection, not missed throws in the pocket.

In the end only 199 yards of offense, and more than half of those coming from one player doesn't leave much room for splitting hairs. This offense was bad and even against Michigan it could have been better. 

Defense: C-

This group was down all three starting linebackers, a starting defensive end and one of its best corners. Add in the fact Penn State was in a position to be playing a third string middle linebacker, who also proceeded to get hurt and that's the kind of day it was for the Nittany Lion defense. That being said missed tackles early in the game doomed Penn State where plays were there to be made. This unit actually looked prepared on Michigan's first drive snuffing out two plays it clearly saw on tape, but the missed tackles and lacking experience caught up to them right away. 

Malik Golden finished the day with 11 tackles while Cam Brown had 10 and Marcus Allen seven. It would be easy to give this group a failing grade for Michigan's 515 yards of offense and 49 points, but this group is currently held together by masking tape and positive thoughts. It isn't that this performance was acceptable, but it also exactly a surprise that a defense full of backups wasn't quite up to par with the No. 4 ranked team on the road. 

By the end this defense was worn out and Michigan's 6.1 yards per play and 11-for-16 third down conversions showed it. 

Special Teams:B+

All things considered this unit did everything it was asked to do, Blake Gillikin outkciked his coverage on the first punt of the game allowing for Jabrill Peppers to break a long 53-yard return. Other than that though Michigan only punted once and Penn State's kick return until was headed all day by Miles Sanders who generally did well considering the circumstance. Tyler Davis made a chip shot field goal and other than that this group wasn't much of a factor. This grade should be lower because Peppers' return and no explosive plays with multiple chances to return the ball on Saturday, but Gillikin was a weapon and in a game full of miscues, Penn State's special teams made the least number of them.

Overall: C-

The offense should have been better, the defense could in the very least have tackled better and special teams didn't swing the game like you need it to in an upset bid. Not everything bad about how Penn State played was Penn State's fault, but enough of it was that the opponent only counts for so much. This was a bad afternoon all the way around unless your name is Saquon Barkley.

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