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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following Penn State's 41-14 Win Over Iowa

by on November 06, 2016 11:40 AM

Penn State has now for the better part of the past eight quarters dominated its opponents. A week ago it was Purdue and a 62 point throttling of the Boilermakers. This Saturday it was a much more capable Iowa team that has historically been a thorn in the Nittany Lions' side. But scoring, and a strong second half once again pushed Penn State past a team that it really should beat and turned a No. 12 ranking from something of an oddity to an increasingly reinforced resume.

The Nittany Lions weren't perfect, but it's getting harder and harder to find major faults with what Penn State is doing in all three phases of the game. Here are the grades.

Offense: A

Penn State putting up lots of yards on offense is becoming less and less surprising which means it's the little details that really make the difference here. For example the Nittany Lions entered the game last in the nation on third down, but short yardage situations worked in Penn State's favor on Saturday to the tune of a 7-of-14 conversion success rate that kept multiple drives alive. It's worth noting as well that Penn State didn't go three-and-out once on Saturday, equally key to the 41-14 thumping. 

Trace McSorley only completed 11 passes on 18 attempts but managed 240 yards passing and found four different targets for 25+ yard scores. This offense by and large hasn't been driving on small gains but rather big chunk plays over and over again. The result can be a bit hit or miss, but the past two weeks have been an exercise in how few plays it can take to win a game.

Saquon Barkley was his usual self not playing in the fourth quarter but still managing 211 all purpose yards with 169 coming on the ground and 57 of those coming on a highlight reel run in the second quarter. 

Chris Godwin continued his solid year with a four catch, 87-yard night while Mike Gesicki's revival added another four catch, 65-yard outing to the resume.

All told this unit was effective all night and scored more or less at will. With Brendan Mahon out early at tackle Penn State had essentially backups at each tackle spot and really didn't miss a beat.

Defense: B+

Don't be fooled, Penn State's defense played fantastic. The Hawkeyes did little on offense and 81 yards came on a garbage time drive. Thirty yards rushing kept Penn State's opponent under 50 yards in a game for the second straight contest, a program record in Big Ten play. Short of two long screen passes, one of which resulted in Iowa's first touchdown, the Hawkeyes couldn't do anything and Penn State was all over the field. It was in every sense of the word a dominating performance.

But three personal foul penalties on Jason Cabinda and small but important miscues are the kind of thing that can lose you a game against a better opponent. For Penn State none of the next three games are against overly difficult teams, but the principle is the same. Unforced errors are bad no matter who you're playing.

That being said it was another outstanding for this group. Cabinda led the way with eight tackles, Troy Apke picked up his first career interception and the Nittany Lions added six tackles for a loss to the resume. Iowa was 2-for-10 on third down and Cabinda's leaping fourth down stop early in the game set the tone for the night.

And as always, a few missed tackles made their usual appearance during the game, although not nearly as many as usual for a group that has struggled with that fundamental.

Special Teams: B

Tyler Davis had a low kick blocked for the second week in a row to bring this grade down a bit. Otherwise though this unit was its usual productive self. A few near punt blocks for Penn State could have pushed this up to an A in spite of the miss but it didn't happen. Blake Gillikin was solid with only two punts but both landing inside the 20. Miles Sanders also opened the game with a 48-yard kickoff return. DeAndre Thompkins didn't really have a chance to do anything in the punt return game but also was sure handed, equally key.

On the coverage side of things Joey Julius had three touchbacks on the night and speedy return man Desmond King had a kickoff return long of 23 yards on four attempts.

And to his credit, even with the block, Davis knocked in  30- and 37-yard attempts to continue his otherwise dependable streak. So far in his career Davis has yet to miss a field goal that wasn't blocked.

Overall: A

Penn State dominated this game against an opponent that is better than its record and always tough matchup for the Nittany Lions. 599 yards of offense, lots of touchdowns, third down conversions and a smothering offense highlighted the night. There isn't much more you can ask of a team, and the Nittany Lions are clicking on all cylinders.

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