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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following Penn State's 18-13 Loss To Michigan

by on October 12, 2014 6:00 AM

Penn State was done in on Saturday night by poor decisions and poor execution once again while the Wolverines made just enough plays to come away with their first win after losing three games.

The Nittany Lions did some good things early on, scoring on their opening three drives and playing strong defense. But as they have nearly the entire season, they struggled to move the ball and once again failed to protect Christian Hackenberg from nearly nonstop pressure.

Since Penn State fans will likely erase this one from the memory banks sooner rather than later, here are the grades for Penn State's offense, defense and special teams. Read and forget.

Offense: D+

It looked like the night was going to be a good one for Penn State's offense after three straight scoring drives to open the game, including 40 yards on the ground during the first drive. But that feeling quickly evaporated as Penn State put together only three drives the rest of the game that were longer than 10 yards.

Christian Hackenberg was sacked six times and hurried even more en route to a 21-for-32 night for 160 yards. Hackenberg's only touchdown pass to DaeSean Hamilton marked the first TD for a Penn State receiver on American soil (the first since the UCF game in Ireland) but Hamilton would only make one catch in the second half after being targeted early and often. Hackenberg's only interception of the game was a byproduct of continuing pressure.

Bill Belton had 14 carries for 69 yards in what was really the first meaningful rushing performance of the season in a big game. Other than that the offensive line was as it has been all year. Full of issues.

Defense: B

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Mike Hull was a beast for Penn State with 11 tackles and a near interception return for a touchdown as the Nittany Lion defense kept Penn State in the game. Any time you can hold an opponent under 20 points it's a positive. The D kept Michigan from doing too much damage despite several drives that started near or past midfield. This grade is down from a B+ performance because the defense failed to capitalize on two key opportunities. A Ryan Keiser should-have-been interception turned into a touchdown and Mike Hull had a chance for a Pick-6 but couldn't hang on to the ball.

Anthony Zettel and Deion Barnes both had strong games and all in all Penn State kept Devin Gardner from doing too much damage aside from a lone 25 yard run. Penn State gave up 64 yards on the ground to the tune of 2.1 yards a carry.

Special Teams: C-

Usually sound unit -- Sam Ficken made both of his mid-range field goals and had success driving the ball deep on kickoffs. Michigan never had a good kick return and Penn State's coverage unit held strong. The big negative on Saturday was the punting which gave Michigan great field position on several occasions and a better offense would have scored even more points. A 33 yard average by Gulla over the span of five kicks isn't a good number. Penn State's return unit didn't do anything special but wasn't really given the chance.

The poor field position didn't cost Penn State as much as it could have, but it often came back around to poor field position for the offense. It was simply too bad to overlook.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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Penn State Football: Small Room For Error Negates Positives In Loss To Michigan
October 12, 2014 12:30 AM
by Ben Jones
Penn State Football: Small Room For Error Negates Positives In Loss To Michigan
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