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Penn State’s Post-Ball State Report Card

In a homecoming 651 days in the making, Penn State football took care of Ball State 44-13 at Beaver Stadium Saturday afternoon.

An all-around impressive effort for the Nittany Lions earned helped them improve to 2-0 and earned them their 300th all-time win in Beaver Stadium. A balanced offensive attack led the way, but Penn State’s defensive starters continued to be lights-out.

With that, here are our grades for Penn State’s first home win of the season:

Quarterback: A-

Penn State really checked a lot of boxes in the quarterback department Saturday. Most importantly, Sean Clifford did not throw any interceptions for the second week in a row. The quarterback accumulated 230 yards on a 72.4% completion rate and even snuck in for a rushing score.

To really nitpick, Clifford did miss on a deep ball or two. Penn State opening that part of its offense would have been a welcomed development, but the senior was overall methodical, confident, and poised.

As a bonus, redshirt sophomore Ta’Quan Roberson even got in the game for a handful of snaps, completing his first career pass to Theo Johnson for a touchdown. With no experienced backup on Penn State’s roster, Roberson’s development is an important storyline to watch this season.

Running Backs: B+

It wasn’t a memorable day for Penn State’s running back unit, but the group got the job done. With John Lovett remaining unavailable, it seems like the Nittany Lions are sticking with a one-two punch of Noah Cain and Keyvone Lee.

Cain picked up right where he left off at the end of the 2019 season with another solid day against Ball State with 69 yards and a score on 20 attempts. The running back also picked up 30 yards through the air, which continues to be an impressive development of his game.

Lee ran for an efficient 68 yards on eight attempts but still needs to focus on running north-south instead of east-west. He also had an impressive 24-yard reception on a dime from Clifford in the first quarter.

Devyn Ford also got some work late in the game, taking six carries for 32 yards.

Wide Receivers: A-

Again, there’s not much to complain about from the wide receivers’ game Saturday. Penn State established tempo and a condensed style of play early on, picking up lots of yardage through quick-hitting passes.

Parker Washington was Clifford’s No. 1 target against the Cardinals, catching six passes for 57 yards. However, Jahan Dotson led the way with 65 yards and a score on five catches. Ten different Nittany Lions caught passes Saturday to keep Ball State on its toes.

Although Penn State was focusing on short and mid-range passing play, it would have been nice to see some guys break free up top for big scores. Still, Ball State’s style of defensive play definitely caters to a focus on an underneath passing attack.

Tight Ends: B

Penn State’s tight ends had a quiet afternoon in the second game of the season. Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson combined for three catches, but Johnson was able to haul in a touchdown grab from Roberson late in the game.

The Nittany Lions’ tight ends were targeting just four times, but they were quite involved in the blocking game. Three tight ends were often on the field at the same time, and Tyler Warren notably did some work run blocking.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line definitely had a bounce-back performance against a weaker Cardinals front. Clifford often times had all day in the pocket and missed only a few passes due to Ball State pressure.

Now, with Eric Wilson solidified as a starter, the Nittany Lions will be able to get more work in as a unit. Clifford dropped back 29 times Saturday and was sacked twice.

Defensive Line: A-

While Penn State’s defense didn’t have the same shutdown performance against Ball State that it did against Wisconsin, the starters held the Cardinals to just a pair of field goals all afternoon.

Arnold Ebiketie led the way for the defensive line with four tackles and one tackle-for-loss on the day. Hybrid player Jesse Luketa also had himself a day at defensive end, taking an interception all the way to the house for a pick-six.

Linebackers: A-

The story for Penn State’s linebackers was very similar to the defensive line. Brandon Smith led the way in tackles with seven, and Curtis Jacobs had the only sack on the day for Penn State.

Thanks to the Nittany Lions’ big lead, lots of the first-stringers were able to get rest down the stretch. They already proved against Wisconsin and in the first half against Ball State that they’re efficient both in the run and pass game.

Freshman Jamari Buddin was able to get some run late, logging three tackles in his limited playing time. Charlie Katshir and Tyler Eldson also contributed three tackles.

Secondary: B+

Penn State’s secondary didn’t have a lockdown performance, but it did limit explosive plays and kept Ball State out of the end zone. The Cardinals’ quarterback, Drew Plitt, was 25-for-39 for 176 yards and two picks.

Daequan Hardy came down with an impressive interception on a deep ball, bolstering the secondary’s confidence. While a handful of coverage mistakes were made, the longest play the secondary gave up all night was 28 yards.

Special Teams: B+

Jordan Stout has a huge leg. The kicker/punter/special teams star registered touchback after touchback all afternoon and was perfect on extra points. Stout was good from as long as 45 on field goals, but he did miss one of his four attempts.

Dotson didn’t get much done in the punt return game, and Ford averaged 22 yards-per-return on kickoffs.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected]

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