Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following Penn State's 34-0 Victory Over Kent State
It wasn't always pretty and it wasn't always fun to watch, but Penn State got the job done on Saturday knocking off Kent State inside of a soaking wet Beaver Stadium 34-0.
So how did the Nittany Lions fare in the wind and the rain? Here are the grades:
Christian Hackenberg had his first "bad" game of his Penn State career going 13-of-35 for 176 yards an interception and a touchdown. Hackenberg's timing was off in some cases and didn't seem to quite have the touch he usually has had in warmer and drier situations. After completing six straight passes in the first half, Hackenberg struggled in the second half to find his targets in open space.
Where Hackenberg struggled, the running game picked it back up with Akeel Lynch, Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak all putting in meaningful time on Saturday.
Lynch led the group with 14 carries for 123-yards, and Zwinak hit pay dirt three times for the second straight week on a 15 carry 65-yard effort. Belton rounded out the rushing stats with a 13 carry, 90-yard performance that included a 15-yard touchdown catch and run. Belton also came up a yard shy of scoring later in the game, a run that Zwinak would clean up the very next down.
Overall the offense looked the most out of sync that it has all season due in large part to Hackenberg's struggles. Even so, over 200 yards on the ground and a few important passes by Hackenberg saves the day. Chalk it up more to the weather than anything else.
Standout Performer: Zach Zwinak, 3 TDs, 15 carries, 65 yards.
When you score 21 points it's going to make you the MVP. Lynch and Belton deserve a lot of the credit as well. In many cases Zwinak was just cleaning up after long runs by both backs. Even so, there is something to be said for back-to-back touchdown hat trick games.
You can say it was the opponent, you can say it was the wet weather, but at the end of the day Penn State's defense pitched a shutout. With Kent State's star player in Dri Archer out of the game the Golden Flashes lacked any real punch on offense. Even so, Penn State's defensive front had a strong performance with defensive end Deion Barnes picking up his first sack on the year. Linebacker Glenn Carson was also dominant, leading the team with seven tackles and a team high two tackles for a loss. In total Penn State held Kent State to just 56 yards rushing on 24 carries; just 17 of 36 for 136 yards passing; and 190 yards overall.
Standout Performer: Ryan Keiser, 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 3 pass defends.
Keiser had what you could call a breakout game, flying all over the field and coming up with several big plays. His interception came one play after a Hackenberg pass was intercepted giving Penn State the ball right back. With Penn State's secondary being tested over the past few weeks, Keiser has given quarterbacks something to think about when they let those passes fly into the Nittany Lion secondary.
Special Teams: A
Penn State's special teams were a large part of the show on Saturday, but a 54-yard field goal by Sam Ficken moves the grade up to an A. Alex Butterworth averaged 39-yards over four punts which is decent but not exceptional. Ficken going perfect from 25 and 54 yards was really the most notable thing with only one kickoff return to speak of. Penn State's own kickoff return defense has been suspect at times with return men being a block or two away from a big return. It didn't hurt the Nittany Lions this weekend but it may only be a matter of time before a kickoff is returned for a touchdown.
Standout Performer: Sam Ficken, 2-for-2, 25 and 54 yards.
It's an easy award to hand out this week. A 54-yard bomb late in the game was the most exciting moment of the entire second half and for that Ficken gets the nod.