Handing Out The Grades Following Penn State’s 33-14 Win Over Central Michigan

Penn State is running back Nicholas Singleton. Photo by Paul Burdick, StateCollege.com

Penn State defeated Central Michigan 33-14 in one of those games you’ll forget when you wake up tomorrow. The Nittany Lions did enough on both sides of the ball to win, while Central Michigan did enough to keep things interesting just long enough for fans to fret on a fine day that their favorite team won. Bigger fish to fry soon enough for this bunch, but for now here are the notes.

Offense: B

Penn State’s offense β€” at the end of the day β€” has done a lot of things pretty well. Kaytron Allen rushed for 111 yards on 13 carries, while Penn State averaged 5.2 yards per carry and had a 100-yard rusher for the third straight game. In the passing game, Sean Clifford started 8-on-8 but then struggled to find his goals mid-afternoon. All in all, he finished the day 22-to-34 for 217 yards and avoided any real mistakes even if he didn’t have his best stuff. Parker Washington pulled down six catches while Brenton Strange had five catches and two touchdown afternoons. Penn State went 5-to-6 in the red zone and went 5-to-13 in third place.

A total of 10 different players caught a pass and five different players caught multiple passes. Penn State didn’t have a single drive for 60 yards and averaged just 33.4 yards per scoring drive as Central Michigan gave the Nittany Lions a handful of short fields throughout the day. This wasn’t a great outing by far, but for all the blah blah, Penn State still did well on short fields and took care of business. It’s an average grade because it was a pretty average performance.

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Defense: C

Penn State’s defense flexed and gave up a handful of long drives but still didn’t break. Similar to the offensive side of the ball, this note stems from the fact that it wasn’t great, but you can’t disagree with the end result either. Central Michigan had 363 yards offense and went 5-for-15 in third and never really had a chance to get back into the game when Penn State finally took the lead in the second half. The Nittany Lions gave up plays of 25, 18 and 13 yards in third place, with two of them converting and the 25-yard gain setting up a failed fourth and second-half goal attempt. Auburn had similar success last week, converting third-downs from 20, 16 and 10 yards in the loss. The Tigers finished the game and also converted 5 of 15 attempts to third down, meaning Penn State’s 10 third down conversions have been given up over the past two weeks. half of them were for plays of more than 10 yards.

That performance wasn’t nearly as disruptive in the trenches as the Nittany Lions did against Auburn last weekend and it was noticeable. As a result, Penn State finished the game with two sacks and three tackles for a loss. PJ Mustipher led with six tackles while the Nittany Lions forced four turnovers – two through the air and two on the ground. Overall, it wasn’t a bad performance, but it was one of those games where you thought, “If they play like this against Ohio State, are they going to win?” Four envelopes? Probably. The rest needs to get better though. Honorable mention for a secondary who registered 13 pass separations. Kalen King and Joey Porter Jr. had seven together.

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Special teams πŸ˜€

Barney Amor was a fantastic punt all season, nailing three of his four punts inside Central Michigan’s 15 and giving the Penn State defense a ton to work with. That being said, a miss by Jake Pinegar from 38 yards and a blocked extra point really hurt the grade here, especially as this isn’t the first time these issues have cropped up. A long 56-yard miss late in the first half doesn’t help, but 56-yard field goals are more forgivable. Parker Washington has been a solid returnee and looks like he might break one at some point. Special teams helped more than harm on Saturday, but that’s only because the kicks didn’t really matter. They’ll play a role sooner rather than later, and that’s what hurts the note the most here.

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Coach: C

Much like the rest of Saturday, it wasn’t bad, but again, it wasn’t great. There wasn’t a single decision that stood out, but Penn State, who looks like they’ll be struggling through the afternoon, need to come back at least a little bit to prepare. Staying at running back with Kaytron Allen was the right decision and in general the Nittany Lions did enough to win and never really had to worry in the second half. This rating isn’t so very low because James Franklin and co really got it wrong, but rather the fact that it’s difficult to convey a feel the, and get a good grade for it.

Total: c

A pretty meh game from end to end. Penn State will likely be a better team for this in the long run and probably could have avoided it if they ended the first half the way it started. However, giving up just 14 points is never a bad thing these days. Penn State avoided big offensive mistakes, forced a lot of turnovers, and made the most of short fields. No one will ever think about this game again, so you can’t get a good grade for it, but you can’t get a terrible grade for winning either.

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