Penn State’s Post-Ohio State Report Card

No. 11 Penn State football fell to No. 3 Ohio State under White Out conditions at Beaver Stadium Saturday. The Nittany Lions blew a two-possession lead in the fourth quarter, allowing 13 points in the final eight minutes of Saturday’s game to lose by one point to the Buckeyes for the second consecutive season.

How did some of Penn State’s most important players perform on the biggest stage in college football?

Quarterback: A+

Trace McSorley played his heart out on Saturday night and did everything he could to drag the Nittany Lions to victory.

McSorley passed for 286 yards and two touchdowns, but he was far more dangerous on the ground. He led the Nittany Lions in rushing with 175 yards, including several big gains that kept the Nittany Lion offense rolling.

McSorley went 16-for-32 with 286 yards and a 145.7 passer rating.

Perhaps the most impressive part of McSorley’s White Out game was his ability to improvise and make something out of nothing. Most of his 175 rushing yards came after he was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled towards the first down marker. He may not have found the end zone with his legs, but McSorley gave the Buckeyes fits all game.

McSorley’s importance to the Nittany Lions’ offense was on full display when the ball was taken out of his hands on its final play of the game. He should be among the favorites for the Heisman trophy after breaking Penn State’s single-game record with 461 yards of total offense.

Backs & Receivers: C-

This group was a bit of a dud. Penn State’s running backs and wide receivers were an overall negative, with a few exceptions, throughout Saturday’s clash with Ohio State.

Miles Sanders was largely ineffective on the evening, but he did find the end zone to extend Penn State’s lead to 12 points with eight minutes remaining. This was Sanders’ first down game as Penn State’s starting running back, as he finished with just 43 yards on 16 carries. Unfortunately, he also coughed up the football to the Buckeyes, who capitalized with a score.

The Nittany Lions’ wide receivers continued to have problems with dropping the ball throughout Saturday’s game. Juwan Johnson had one of the most productive games of the season, hauling in five passes for 61 yards. His one-handed catch in the first quarter should be illegal in some states, but he did drop a few crucial passes.

Ohio State corner Damon Arnette couldn’t have done anything against Juwan Johnson’s acrobatic one-handed catch.

KJ Hamler was certainly a bright spot: He had another 100-yard day, but he also went down injured in the fourth quarter after a dirty hit by Ohio State’s Isaiah Pryor. Pryor was ejected for targeting following the play, but Penn State’s offense looked flat without the dynamic Hamler, who scored a 93-yard touchdown in the first half.

Pat Freiermuth had his best game of the season, hauling in three passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. The true freshman’s played his way into a larger role on the Nittany Lions’ offense and showed his strength on his two-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter.

Outside of those three, the Nittany Lions’ receiving core was largely ineffective, with Brandon Polk and Mac Hippenhammer each catching only one reception for a combined 41 yards.

Offensive Line: C

Penn State’s total of 206 rushing yards is a good look for the offensive line, but that should come with a big asterisk. Most of those 206 yards came from Trace McSorley scrambling out of the pocket and creating something out of nothing. The Nittany Lions’ rushing attack — on designed runs, at least — was largely ineffective throughout the game.

Miles Sanders’ total of just 43 yards and Tommy Stevens’ end-game total of -12 showed just how much the offensive line struggled against Ohio State’s elite defensive front. The Buckeyes also finished the game with four sacks and 11 tackles-for-loss; they were able to put pressure on Trace McSorley and co. consistently throughout the evening.

This was the offensive line’s toughest test of the season, even though star lineman Nick Bosa sat out due to injury. Considering the circumstances, the Nittany Lions’ O-line did about as well as expected.

Front Seven: B

Overall, Penn State’s front seven had a strong game, but the linebackers did the #LBU legacy particularly proud.

Starting linebackers Koa Farmer, Cam Brown, and Jan Johnson led the team in tackles with eight, six, and five tackles, respectively. The group easily put together its best game of the season and was a key reason why the Buckeyes couldn’t get much going throughout the first three quarters of the game.

The defensive line was, on paper, not that effective, recording just one sack and five tackles-for-loss. However, Ohio State’s potent rushing attack was largely kept in check throughout the evening. Star running back JK Dobbins was limited to just 57 yards on 17 carries and the Buckeyes finished with 119 yards total.

Secondary: D+

For three quarters, Penn State’s secondary was fantastic. The group of Nick Scott, Garrett Taylor, Amani Oruwariye, John Reid, and Tariq Castro-Fields helped keep Ohio State’s offense in check.

Dwayne Haskins mustered just 132 passing yards through three quarters. Garrett Taylor pulled in his first career interception after a pass was deflected. Everything was going swimmingly for the unit, but the Buckeyes found their groove in the air in the final 15 minutes.

Garrett Taylor’s first career interception set up a 39-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar that gave Penn State a 6-0 lead in the second quarter.

A big part of Ohio State’s comeback from a 12-point deficit was its ability to pick the Nittany Lions apart with screen passes. The defensive backs couldn’t get past Ohio State’s blocks on most screens. When they could, however, they whiffed on several key tackles.

The 47- and 24-yard touchdown receptions scored by Binjimen Victor and KJ Hill in the fourth quarter were the product of horrendous tackling by the Nittany Lion secondary. It seemed like the Nittany Lions regressed back to their early-season tackling form in the fourth quarter, and that ultimately was a huge reason why the Buckeyes escaped Happy Valley victorious.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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