Penn State vs Rutgers Position Grades

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA;  Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) rushes for yardage against Rutgers Scarlet Knights during first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) rushes for yardage against Rutgers Scarlet Knights during first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State beat Rutgers 39-0 Saturday night, notching their ninth win of the season.

The Nittany Lions shut out Rutgers Saturday night in a game that wasn’t always pretty.  At halftime, surprisingly, Penn State was only up 9-0.  However the game was never really in doubt.

The Lion defense dominated Rutgers from start to finish.  The Knights were shut out for the fourth time this season and only could muster 87 yards.  Even when Penn State fumbled the opening kickoff and gave Rutgers what would be their best field position of the night, the defense was up to the challenge and moved Rutgers back seven yards before they eventually missed a field goal.

It was a game that was needed, as Penn State continues its march to the post-season.

The Big Ten East will come down to Saturday and we all know what needs to happen by now.  Let’s hope the game ends in the Lions favor.

For now, let’s take one last look at the victory over Rutgers and hand out some grades.

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) makes a pass against Rutgers Scarlet Knights during first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks

Given the weather conditions, Trace McSorley wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t great either.  Luckily, he did not need to be.

McSorley finished 17-33 for 210 yards and a touchdown.  He also added 55 yards on the ground on 11 carries, keeping drives alive with his feet.

He just seemed like he was having an off night on some of his passes.  There were a couple missed touchdown throws and a couple more balls that should have been picked off by Rutgers.  We’ll chalk it up to the weather because it was not a good night for slinging the ball around.

Tommy Stevens also got in some playing time and finished with 6 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown run.

Grade: B

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) rushes against Rutgers Scarlet Knights linebacker Brandon Russell (49) during second half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Running Backs

Not a typical Saquon Barkley kind of night, but he and the other running backs got the job done.

Barkley finished the night with 92 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown.  He left the game in the third quarter and appeared to be evaluated for a concussion on the sideline.  Thankfully though, James Franklin said after the game he was fine and he was left on the sidelines as a precaution.

In his absence, the other running backs got their chances to shine.

Miles Sanders had five carries for 85 yards including a very nice 57-yard scamper.  Mark Allen had five carries for 26 yards and he took a screen pass and made some nifty moves for a 27-yard touchdown.  Andre Robinson picked up 6 carries, 20 yards and a touchdown.

It was a good night for all the running backs.  The Nittany Lion backfield is loaded with talent.

Grade: B+

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Mike Gesicki (88) follows blockers Juwan Johnson (84) and DeAndre Thompkins (3) during first half against Rutgers Scarlet Knights at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Wide Receivers / Tight Ends

Again, with the less than ideal weather conditions, the receiving corps suffered some.  There were some dropped balls on the night that should have been caught.

Mike Gesicki led all receivers with five catches for 47 yards.  DeAndre Thompkins added four catches for 40 yards. Chris Godwin had three catches for 36 yards, and DaeSean Hamilton had a pair for 35 yards.

There were no touchdowns for this group, which lead to the average grade.  Nothing really stood out, but they made the catches when needed.

Grade: B-

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Mark Allen (8) rushes for yardage against Rutgers Scarlet Knights lineman Zach Venesky (75) during second half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line

Missing Paris Palmer, Brendan Mahon and Connor McGovern, the offensive line was a patch work of players, but it still got the job done.

Rutgers was probably the right opponent at the right time for the Nittany Lions.  The offensive line opened up running lanes all evening, totaling 339 yards on the ground and close to 550 yards of total offense.

The line did not allow Trace McSorley to be sacked once, although with the game well in hand, Tommy Stevens was sacked once for minus one yard.

Hopefully Mahon and McGovern can play in the game against the Spartans Saturday.

Grade: B+

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Giovanni Rescigno (17) is tackled by Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle Curtis Cothran (52) during first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line

We normally break down each of the defensive positions, which we still will point out the outstanding performances, but we will start with Saturday night being a total team effort on defense.

Rutgers was held scoreless, converted five first downs and had 87 yards total.  Yes, this is a bad Rutgers team, but the Penn State defense did exactly what it needed to do.

Defensive tackle Parker Cothren led the line in tackles with four total.  Evan Schwan had a sack and a forced fumble.  There was no room for Rutgers to run as they were held to 39 yards on 33 carries, the longest run being 14 yards.

Grade: A

Nov 5, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle Kevin Givens (30) reacts with teammates linebacker Brandon Bell (11) and defensive tackle Robert Windsor (54) following his sack of Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard (not pictured) during the third quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Iowa 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Linebackers

Rutgers was no match for Linebacker U in this game.  The linebackers were all over the field, bottling up any player that came in their direction.

Brandon Bell had a solid night with five tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble.  Brandon Smith and Cam Brown had three tackles each and combined for a sack.  Jason Cabinda also chipped in 3 tackles.

On the night overall for the defense, 26 Nittany Lions were credited with at least one tackle.  A workman’s effort from the entire team.

Now healthy, it’s great to have a full compliment of linebackers. Penn State is fortunate to have a talented group of linebackers who can set the tone for the defense. Their great effort against the Scarlet Knights played a big role in the success of the defense.

Grade: A

Nov 5, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen (2) gestures to the crowd during the third quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Iowa 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Secondary

Can we say it enough?  The defense was solid all night and there was nothing Rutgers could do about it.

The secondary allowed 48 yards through the air.  They were shutting everything down all night.  John Reid led the defensive backfield with three tackles, including two for a loss.  Grant Haley contributed two tackles, including a tackle for loss.

Malik Golden and Marcus Allen were also good at locking down the passing game.

One last word on the defense.  Rutgers’ first possession went backwards seven yards and ended in a missed field goal.  Their next 12 possessions ended in a punt.  That’s what you call efficient defense.

Grade: A

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive back K.J. Gray (17) reacts after recovering a Penn State fumble during the first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams

Things did not start well for the Nittany Lions on special teams, but luckily they were playing Rutgers.

Miles Sanders attempted to field the opening kickoff and dropped the ball, then made matters worse by inadvertently kicking the ball forward and Rutgers recovered at the Penn State 19 yard line.

After that, things got better.

Tyler Davis nailed all four of his field goals, with three of them coming in the first half when Penn State was struggling to put the ball in the end zone.  Kicking in that weather was no easy task, but Davis was up to the challenge.

Blake Gillikin punted the ball three times for an average of 47.7 yards, including one inside the 20 yard line.  It wasn’t flashy, but credit Gregg Garrity for making clean fair catches off punts during the rain & ice.

Juwan Johnson made a very nice punt block that set up the Lions first touchdown of the game.  How Rutgers did not block Johnson was puzzling, but was typical of this Rutgers team.

Grade: B

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin during pre game warm up before facing the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Coaching

Penn State was focused and ready to play, especially the defense, from the onset of the game.

The offense made plays in the first half, they just couldn’t punch it in the endzone.  Credit Joe Moorhead for making the halftime adjustments and they buried Rutgers in the second half.

It was a total team effort Saturday night from the offense, defense, special teams and coaches.

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Mike Gesicki (88) follows blockers Juwan Johnson (84) and DeAndre Thompkins (3) during first half against Rutgers Scarlet Knights at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 19, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) rushes for yardage against Rutgers Scarlet Knights during first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Not much more needs to be said here except Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State.

Grade: A

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