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Penn State Football: Handing Out the Grades After Penn State's 35-7 Victory Over Illinois

by on September 30, 2012 4:30 PM

No matter how much the off-the-field drama had been hyped up, no matter how much would be made of a handshake between two coaches, Bill O'Brien and Penn State made a statement Saturday afternoon that they would not be taken lightly in conference play. 

Like each of the games under O'Brien, the Nittany Lions dominated the first 15 minutes of play, putting a sputtering Illinois team on its heels. 

It wasn't a perfect game for Penn State, but it was a win nevertheless. Here are the grades coming out of Week 5's victory.

Offense B- : Without a doubt the offensive line's dominance that led Penn State to four rushing touchdowns was a welcome sight. That being said, Matt McGloin took a little while to get going on the road. Many times when he would have lots of time in the pocket to throw, the result would often be a pass to the feet of his target. Two hundred-eleven yards and 60 percent completion percentage is far from awful, but McGloin has looked better this year and will need to make throws when he has all day to pass. 

Zach Zwinak made a convincing argument to get a majority of the carries on offense with 100 yards on 19 attempts, but Bill Belton put together a respectable 16 carry, 65-yard day.

Illinois was able to keep Allen Robinson quiet, but tight ends Matt Lehman and Kyle Carter made O'Brien's tight end-heavy offense look good.

Defense A: Illinois is far from an organized offensive juggernaut, but a Michael Mauti-led defense made the Illini look ever worse. Pressure up the middle, interceptions, and fumbles plagued Illinois as Penn State forced it into mistake after mistake. Ted Roof might not truly know what he has until the Nittany Lions play Ohio State in four weeks, but he continues to make up for what some fans saw as a weak start to the season.

Special Teams C- : Sam Ficken made his first field goal only to have it erased following a defensive penalty. Two more misses, one of which was a result of poor blocking and a high snap, hurt his grade again. Alex Butterworth saves the unit with three punts over 40 yards, including one from inside the Nittany Lion end zone.

MVP: Mauti gets the nod after being an absolute force on defense. Two interceptions, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble were just the start of his impressive day. After battling injury, it's nice to a player as talented as him playing this well. Zwinak also gets a mention for using his body as a battering ram most of the afternoon.

Final Thoughts: Penn State was the better team going into this game and was able to prove it on the field. This team is starting to find itself at the right time of the season and has yet to take a step back. Northwestern will prove to be a difficult opponent, but a Homecoming crowd might keep the winning ways going for Bill O'Brien.

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