Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades As Nittany Lions Beat Maryland 38-3
Penn State made it to nine wins on Saturday afternoon as the Nittany Lions beat Maryland 38-3 in fairly convincing fashion. It was a game that featured nearly all three phases with Penn State's offense moving the ball and Penn State's defense not giving up much of anything to the Terps.
So for the first time in what seems like a long time, there are some good grades to show for it.
It was a good day for this unit that finally looked like it was having fun again on Saturday. 17 first half points tied the second most scored by the Nittany Lions in Big Ten play and Penn State never looked back. The offense went 3-for-7 on third down, the seven attempts the lowest figure of the season for the Nittany Lions.
Trace McSorley was himself with two rushing touchdowns and a passing score. Ricky Slade looked the part in the most action he has seen all year with 64-yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns himself. It wasn't a particularly strong outing by the wideouts but Juwan Johnson made two nice catches on his two targets as he returned from injury.
McSorley was sacked just once all night and Penn State as a team averaged 8.3 yards a play.
Overall this group hasn't looked this good in months and the grade reflects that. There are some things to nitpick like the drops and another Miles Sanders fumble, but in general this is what you would have expected more often than not this season.
What bad things are there to say about this group? Sure you can point to Penn State's opponents and say that they ought to look this good, but "ought to look" and then actually looking are two very different things. Penn State's defense has dominated and it shows on the field. Maryland was able to move the ball at times but never got close to sniffing the end zone on multiple occasions.
Maryland had 259 total yards and just 74 on the ground after torching Ohio State the week prior. Yetur Gross-Matos had 3.5 tackles for a loss Tariq Castro-Fields added 1.5 more as Penn State racked up 15 tackles behind the line on the night. Add in five sacks and this group was all over the place Saturday.
Garrett Taylor quietly led Penn State with five solo tackles and Maryland never really stood a chance against a unit that is playing as well as anyone right now. Maryland averaged 2.9 yards per play and was 5-of-15 on third down with four of those conversions coming in the fourth quarter.
Special Teams: B
Jake Pinegar continues to chug along with a 25-yard field goal but was about the only bright spot for a unit that generally didn't do much on Saturday. Blake Gillikin punted okay, but not great, the return men never really had a chance and Maryland came close at least twice to breaking a long kickoff return.
There's something to be said for the fact this group has managed to limit its mistakes, but it's also not really a threat to do much good either. Considering that DeAndre Thompkins and KJ Hamler are both on the return units you would think that might change, but generally that hasn't been the case.
So it wasn't a bad day, but it wasn't an impactful one either.
They won, they had fun, they looked pretty good doing it. This grade gets knocked down a peg because there were drops to be had by all on Saturday, but other than that this team showed up and got the job done after so many weeks of looking ugly and sometimes indifferent.
That's how you close out a regular season, now a bowl and a trip somewhere warm awaits.