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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following Penn State's Win Over Kent State

by on September 04, 2016 11:00 AM

One down and eleven more to go. Penn State took care of business on Saturday with a good and bad 33-13 victory over Kent State that had its fair share of shining moments coupled with the occasional miscue. The Nittany Lion offense showed glimpses of what it can become under Joe Moorhead while the defense managed to hold Kent State out of the end zone despite a handful of missed tackles and mistakes.

All told it wasn't a great performance, but it wasn't a bad one either. Here are this week's grades. 

Offense: B-

Penn State's offense certainly showed the signs of what it can do, and potentially do really well, but this game was a far cry from reaching peak potential. Trace McSorley played well going 16-of-31 for 209 yards and 60 yards rushing, but even he will need to show improvement as the games get harder and harder. The offense as a whole went 4-of-5 in the red zone but only scored two touchdowns. A 5-of-14 mark on third down isn't great either but was a far cry from the complete third down ineptitude of the past few years.

All told Chris Godwin's seven catches for 67 yards coupled with Saquon Barkley's 105 yards rushing and McSorley's 209 through the air led to a fairly balanced attack. The execution wasn't alway great, and there is room to grow, but end of the day Penn State has put together far worse performances as of late on this side of the ball.

This grade is lower because it's clear how much better it can get, but all told it wasn't that poor of a performance.

Defense: B

Seven sacks grab the headlines but giving up runs of 21, 28 and 16 yards respectively as well as 37-yard reception show a defense that still is finding its way. Kent State never scored more than two field goals when it had the ball, but a personal foul on the Golden Flashes almost certainly kept them out of the end zone as they knocked on the door.

Jason Cabinda picked up where he left off last year with 11 tackles just ahead of Brandon Bell's eight, and a team total 10 tackles for a loss isn't a bad way for a new defensive front to start its season. Marcus Allen and Amani Oruwariye both forced turnovers in the secondary and a 5-of-17 third down conversion rate is fairly acceptable all things considered.

Tackling was an issue on Saturday, something that has plagued the Nittany Lions the past few years. But clean up the big plays and the missed tackles and this isn't a bad performance, especially by a unit with a lot of new faces in new roles.

Special Teams: A

Finally, you might say. Just about everything you need to know can be found in Blake Gillikin's 49-yard punt early in the game receiving a standing ovation from the crowd all too familiar with the punting woes of year's past. Gillikin averaged 47 yards a kick on Saturday while Joey Julius not only had the biggest hit of the day but recorded touchbacks on six of his seven kickoffs. Tyler Davis was 2-of-2 on field goals both from under 30-yards, but good is good.

The return game still appears to be an area Penn State is feeling out a bit as three different players gave it a shot. Nick Scott led the way with a 30-yard return. John Reid was serviceable with his punt returns with a 21-yard return but you get the feeling in both areas Penn State left some yards on the field.

All told though this was a vasty improved unit from last year and it's clear to see that continued improvement and consistency could turn it into a strength for Penn State, something hardly believable given recent memory.

Overall: B

There was good and there was bad, but really there wasn't a surplus of either. This game was really what you make it. If you want to say Penn State is average then there is an argument to be made for that; if you want to say Penn State showed potential nobody would say you were wrong. What happens over the next few weeks will give everyone a better idea of which direction that is trending, but right now it appears more positive than negative. Room to grow, but it looks like this group might be capable of growing.

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