Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following A 27-24 Loss To Michigan State
Much like last week Penn State fans undoubtedly will want little to do with the game when it comes to remembering a torturous seven hour slog through the rain and the delays and the last second loss that you could see coming.
But much like for James Franklin and his staff, there is plenty to unpack following the loss and plenty to go over in the numbers as we look back on the Nittany Lions' second loss in as many weeks.
So how did the units fare this week?
Before the rain delay Penn State was actually looking pretty good. Trace McSorley's one interception was the product of a tipped pass, but otherwise he had nearly 200 yards in the first quarter and was getting multiple targets involved. Penn State couldn't really run the ball as per usual, but the Nittany Lions also weren't really trying to either.
After the delay Penn State never quite got back on track. McSorley would throw two more interceptions in spite of a 381-yard afternoon that was among one of his best statistically on the back of 47 throws. The running game never got going, managing just 65 yards on the ground behind a 36-yard carry by Barkley in the second half. Other than that the Nittany Lions were one dimensional.
Mike Gesicki had a good day coming up with eight catches for 89 yards while DaeSean Hamilton and DeAndre Thompkins had 112 and 102 yards respectively. Unlike last week against Ohio State though, Penn State managed to convert just four third downs on 12 attempts. Conversely the Spartans managed to convert on 10 of their 18 tries.
All told there was a lot of good hidden in a sea of bad for Penn State's offense, and the Nittany Lions weren't far away from winning themselves. Even so, a worse third down conversion rate, turnovers and zero running game knocks this grade down a few pegs.
All told this may have been Penn State's worst overall performance as a unit. Michigan State gashed Penn State's secondary for chunk plays and the tackling woes, aided by a bad field, were back again. The Nittany Lions adjusted just enough in the late stages to give Penn State's offense a chance, but far too many long down situations didn't go the Nittany Lions' way and that's on the defense. Troy Apke and Koa Farmer led the way for the second straight week, each making eight tackles. In his first real playing time Tariq Castro-Fields managed three pass breakups against an offense prepared to pick on the new face.
Overall Penn State couldn't get to the quarterback and couldn't cover long enough to take away the big gains. A lot of that is on Michigan State, but the Nittany Lions didn't make the big plays they needed to in order to win. Add in Marcus Allen's late hit to essentially turn a long field goal into a chip shot for the Spartans and this was a bad day for everyone involved.
Injuries haven't helped this bunch, but that excuse only gets you so far.
Special Teams: B
This was an uneventful day for special teams. Tyler Davis made the kicks he was asked to, Blake Gillikin was reliable and the return games were virtually a non factor in the weather. This grade gets knocked down because this bunch has made a bigger impact in the past. Irv Charles continues to be a dominant gunner on coverage teams.
The weather has to play some part in assessing the overall product, but Penn State looked like the same issues-riddled team it was a week ago. And maybe that was expected, there's no reason to think an offensive line is going to get better over the span of seven days. Even so, Michigan State was a beatable team that the Nittany Lions couldn't. So in that light the grade suffers because at the end of the day good teams find ways to win those games, and Penn State couldn't.