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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following Win Over Temple

by on September 18, 2016 11:25 AM

Penn State overcame injuries and at least one potentially major misstep on Saturday afternoon to knock off Temple 34-27 to pick up the Nittany Lions' second win of the year. While Penn State is still far from a perfect team, Saturday was in may respects the most complete effort by the Nittany Lions so far.

Here are the grades.

Offense: A-

This is probably what Joe Moorhead pictured when it came to this offense. Long plays down the field, effective execution on first down and points to top it all off. Penn State racked up 403 yards of offense with a balanced attack of 287 through the air and 116 on the ground despite missing Saquon Barkley for a good portion of the game. Trace McSorely was an effective 18-of-24 on the day, managing the offense and never really forcing the issue. Chris Godwin led the way with seven catches for a casual 117 yards including a wide open 52-yard catch and run to start off the scoring.

Perhaps most impressive though with the first half effectiveness at which the offense moved. Following Barkley's injury on the first drive of the day Penn State managed to go touchdown, redzone fumble, touchdown and touchdown on the next four drives without him. Where Penn State's offense may have struggled in recent years to move the ball without its star, the Nittany Lions just relied on different players to get the job done.

Fumbles and a missed route leading to an interception were mistakes Penn State can't have against better teams, but when it comes down to the overall product, this was a fairly solid four-quarter effort from this bunch against a pretty good Temple defense. Things need to be tightened up in Big Ten play though.

Defense: C+

Had this been Penn State's normal grouping then this grade would probably be a tick lower. But considering the Nittany Lions are without any of their starting linebackers for a good portion of the game and have turned to two true sophomores and a walk-on, there is a bit of wiggle room here. Add in the absence of Grant Haley, a banged up Marcus Allen and hobbled players after nearly defensive down, this group battled through this game in every sense of the word. Temple only had 324 yards of offense but penalties killed a lot of promising Owl drives. A 3-of-13 on third down mark is a very solid result for Penn State's defense on any day, let alone one like this. By the game's end Penn State had seen seven defensive starters limited or completely out.

All told Malik Golden (who also left for a period with injury) led the way with nine tackles while Marcus Allen and Brandon Smith both made eight on their own. Penn State's defense racked up three sacks and nine tackles for a loss by the end of the game.

This unit is in trouble, partially because it's young and partially because it's injured. Neither of those things are easily correctable. 

Honorable mention to John Reid, quickly becoming a Penn State star on punt returns and in the secondary.

Special Teams: B

This group was so close to a better grade, but a Joey Julius kick out of bounds and a muffed punt recovered by Temple put some imperfections on this grade. Everything else was perfect. Tyler Davis made from 40 and 30 yards, both kicks coming int he second half. Julius to his credit had six touchbacks on seven kicks. 

It was John Reid though that stole the show. Five punt returns with a long of 29 yards and even more that looked like they had the potential for bigger gains. In the kickoff return game it was more of the same as Brandon Polk ripped off a 35-yard return and freshman Miles Sanders had a 31-yard return with a nasty spin move to boot. 

Blake Gillikin was also his usual reliable self with a three punt average of 35 yards but with no real chance for long punts based on where Penn State was punting from. He had two downed inside the 20 including another on the goal line.

James Franklin has gushed over this unit's improvement this spring and fall and it's easy to see why.

Overall: B+

The offense clicked, and Penn State's defense played about as well as you can reasonably expect a defense that injured can. Special teams was solid and there weren't any really questionable coaching decisions. The Nittany Lions converted two fourth down plays and managed to overcome a few miscues along the way. The turnovers have to stop, but all told this was a solid afternoon for a team in this position.

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