Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following The Nittany Lions' Win Over Buffalo
Imagine waking up this morning, having slept through all of Saturday and rushing to your trusty media device to read about last night's game.
"I can't believe I missed it," you say, groggy from 36 straight hours of sleep. "But at least Penn State won 45-13, that means they covered the spread and had a fairly easy night."
So you go about your day happy and refreshed.
And that's really the weird thing about Penn State's win over Buffalo, it was all of those things. It beat the spread, it included a 35-3 run in the second half. It was the game everyone expected, just entirely in the second half. What a weird night indeed.
Here are the grades after an odd evening in Beaver Stadium
The big reason this grade is so low is the first half. If Penn State's offense plays like that against nearly anyone else not named Rutgers (sorry, Rutgers, but you're still very bad) the Nittany Lions will lose, and probably in ugly fashion. Could this team do what the 2016 squad did and only score points in the second half and make roaring comebacks? Sure, but nobody sane wants to live life like that.
Sean Clifford wasn't very sharp in the pocket, Penn State's offensive line struggled in the run game and the Nittany Lions had a hard time moving the ball. That being said Penn State's receivers had a solid night, KJ Hamler, Justin Shorter and Jahan Dotson all making nice plays when they had the chance. A 279-yard passing night will win you a lot of games, but not when so many of them come in the second half.
This grade sits at C because you can't deny the adjustments that were made in the locker room, no matter how ugly the first half was.
Finally 3.2 yards a carry won't cut it, and Ricky Slade has to hang onto the ball or this is Journey Brown's job sooner rather than later.
Buffalo had 429 yards of offense, and converted nearly half of its 23 third-down attempts. It's safe to say Penn State's defense didn't play as well as you might have expected, but Buffalo's offensive line is the real deal and quarterback Matt Myers made the most of his time with beautiful throws, while Buffalo running backs racked up almost 200 yards on the ground.
But they only scored 13 points. Cam Brown jumped on a loose ball, John Reid's pick-six swung the game and short of a field goal this unit pitched a second half shutout. I don't think there is any doubt fans and coaches won't want to see their defense giving up 96-yard drives that last eight minutes in the Big Ten, but the final score is the final score.
All three of Penn State's starting linebackers managed double-digit tackles, Micah Parsons with 10, two of those for a loss.
Penn State's corners struggled a bit at times, but if you can't put pressure on the quarterback, everyone is going to get open eventually, so this issue isn't as simple as one player.
The Nittany Lions won't put up much of an argument that this group will have to improve, especially in coverage if it can't get to the quarterback every night, but 13 points is 13 points.
Special Teams: A
Jake Pinegar was perfect on the night and Jordan Stout continues to send kickoffs to the moon. There are no real complaints here as KJ Hamler was smart with his returns and Penn State was otherwise didn't do anything good or bad to write home about here. Blake Gillikin had a weird punt but was good enough most of the night so he only knocks the grade down a bit. Special teams are as much about opportunity as anything else, so not having an overly exciting game is what it is. It's more about the unforced errors.
The Nittany Lions got a hand on another punt so far this season, but have yet to fully block one.
Uneventful night, and for this group, that's a good thing.
The first half was sloppy, bad, ugly and not fun for anyone who likes fun football. But in the second the defense pitched a near shutout, the offense performed and the Nittany Lions walked away with a win. Nobody is suggesting Penn State try to win like this come Big Ten season, but if you want your teams to learn and grow during the non-conference, you got that on Saturday night.
This grade might be higher than it should be, but a young team flipping the switch and rattling off 35 points in the second half is something to get credit for.
Question now will be if they can avoid it against Pitt, and a Maryland team that can't stop scoring.