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Penn State Football: Handing Out the Grades After Penn State's 17-16 Loss to Virginia

by on September 09, 2012 2:00 PM

It isn't much of a stretch to say that Penn State coach Bill O'Brien didn't imagine that his first two games would be this full of mishap.

A tipped interception turned touchdown, injuries at every turn, and the case of an off-target kicker have all contributed to an 0-2 record that very well could be 2-0.

But, like in every sport, so often the difference between "what could have been" and what actually happened is what defines great teams from average ones.

While Penn State controlled most all of the game on Saturday, a few plays, and a few missed kicks, kept the Nittany Lions from capitalizing on a game that had the makings of O'Brien's first win.

Offense C+: Matt McGloin battled through injury and had a fairly productive game throwing for just under 200 yards and two scores. Penn State couldn't take advantage of the defense's four forced turnovers though and was "only" able to produce -- 14 yards and the points total as a result of the defense's effort. Sam Ficken's struggles kicking didn't help, but with multiple opportunities deep in Virginia territory, Penn State should have converted at least a few scores in the end zone and will have to find the end zone if they have any hope in games down the road. 

Overall, the offense looked improved with the help of Allen Robinson, Kyle Carter, and Alex Kenney who are proving to be reliable targets for Matt McGloin, but until any running back can stay healthy and provide the offense with balance, scoring might be at a premium against better teams.

Defense B+: After coming under fire in the 24-14 loss to Ohio, Penn State's defense forced four turnovers and three sacks disrupting a Virginia offense that put up 43 points a week earlier. Michael Mauti put together a great showing racking up 9 tackles, a forced fumble, a pass deflection, and a recovered fumble. The Nittany Lions' season will likely live and die by the defense's success and Saturday's showing proved that the unit is headed in the right direction. Penn State gave up a long game-winning drive and struggled in the secondary at times, but ultimately put Penn State in position to win, which is all O'Brien can ask for.

Special Teams F: Four missed field goals and a blocked PAT makes this an easy grade. Ficken struggled to find any sort of accuracy with his kicks and Alex Butterworth's punts were nothing to write home about either. Special teams is an often overlooked aspect of the game, but Saturday's showing put the loss of Anthony Fera front and center.

MVP: Allen Robinson leads the Big Ten in receptions (19) and receiving yards per game (93.0 ypg). Robinson is tied for No. 7 nationally in receptions (9.5 avg.). His diving touchdown catch capped off a 10 reception day for 89 yards. Alex Kenney and Kyle Carter were solid for the second straight week putting together 7 catches, 88 yards, and a score.

Final Word: Despite the loss Penn State looked better on both sides of the ball. Feeling good about that doesn't win the game, but it's something build on moving forward. If the Nittany Lions can stay healthy, they might be able to turn the ship around. Sooner or later the bad breaks will fall the other team's way.

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