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Penn State’s Post-Rutgers Report Card

Penn State football is back in the win column.

Following a tough loss to Michigan last week, the Nittany Lions closed out their home slate with a 28-0 win over Rutgers on Senior Day. Led by true freshman quarterback Christian Veilleux and a dominant defensive performance, James Franklin’s squad easily breezed by the Scarlet Knights.

Before moving on to the season finale against Michigan State, let’s take a closer look at how each position group played against Rutgers.

Quarterbacks: B+

Sean Clifford got the start for Penn State, but that didn’t last long. Clifford exited the game after a quarter and didn’t return. Franklin later revealed after the game he was battling the flu. Before his exit, Clifford completed just two of eight passes for 23 yards.

Then, in came true freshman Christian Veilleux, who’d never taken a snap in a collegiate game. The Canadian had himself a day with 235 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Additionally, he completed a crisp 63% of his passes and commanded the offense like someone who’s been there before.

Veilleux’s first career touchdown was at the end of the first half when he rolled to his right and found Jahan Dotson for an eight-yard score.

Franklin couldn’t have asked for a better performance from his young signal-caller, who was poised, confident, and made plays both through the air and with his legs.

Running Backs: C

Ja’Juan Seider’s running backs weren’t quite able to build off of their encouraging game from the week prior. Keyvone Lee led the way with 13 carries for 41, which is good for just 3.2 yards per carry. Lee did score Penn State’s final touchdown that put the icing on the cake in the fourth quarter, though. He also added one catch for 17 yards.

Noah Cain totaled 29 yards on seven carries, while Caziah Holmes had three carries for 15 yards. Even Tank Smith saw some playing time, but he had just three carries for -2 yards.

On a day where Veilleux was cooking, Penn State’s offense wasn’t hurt too much by a lack of production from its running backs. However, after finally showing some positive signs against Michigan, it would’ve been nice for the Nittany Lions to have another good showing on the ground.

Wide Receivers: B+

It wasn’t just the Jahan Dotson show for Penn State’s wideouts Saturday. For the second straight week, Parker Washington led the group with 72 yards on six catches while also scoring a touchdown on a tough grab in the third quarter.

Dotson hauled in three passes for 53 yards and a touchdown, with his longest catch going 30 yards. He did have an uncharacteristic drop, but hey, it happens to the best sometimes.

It was Malick Meiga who had the surprise of the day from the group. The Canadian Connection™ was in full effect when Veilleux and Meiga hooked up for a 67-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.

It was Meiga’s first career collegiate touchdown, which seemed to be coming as he’s continued to rack up more snaps over the last couple of weeks.

KeAndre Lambert-Smith had a quiet day with just one catch for seven yards.

Tight Ends: C+

The group receives an automatic boost thanks to Tyler Warren’s acrobatic 29-yard catch in the fourth quarter. That was certainly one for the highlight reel. It was one of two catches for Warren, who finished the day with 37 receiving yards.

Otherwise, it was a typically quiet day for Tyler Bowen’s tight ends. Theo Johnson caught just two passes for nine yards, while Brenton Strange failed to record a catch.

Offensive Line: B+

Penn State’s offensive line played one of its better games of the season against Rutgers. Following the unit’s dreadful performance against Michigan in which it gave up a season-high seven sacks, Phil Trautwein’s line kept the pocket clean for the most part.

Veilleux was only sacked once, and the offensive line allowed just three quarterback hurries. With Veilleux playing his first college snaps, it was important for the players around him to help him out and do their jobs, which is exactly what his offensive line did.

The running game wasn’t as effective as you’d like, but the No. 1 priority was keeping Veilleux’s pocket clean, which was accomplished more or less.

Defensive Line: A

What more can you say about the boys up front? The defensive line played a dominant game in all areas Saturday afternoon.

Rutgers ran the ball 31 times for just 72 yards, which equals an abysmal 2.3 yards per carry. Penn State’s defensive line totaled 5.5 tackles for loss, too.

Arnold Ebiketie paced the group with five tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble. Ebiketie’s sack and forced fumble came on a 4th-down play, which helped keep Rutgers off the board when it was in Penn State’s territory.

Coziah Izzard added four tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble, while Derrick Tangelo tallied three tackles and a quarterback hurry.

Linebackers: A

Like the defensive line, Brent Pry’s linebackers did their job in this one. Ellis Brooks led the way with six tackles, while Brandon Smith had five tackles, 0.5 being for a loss.

With Curtis Jacobs out, safety Jonathan Sutherland started at linebacker. Sutherland had four tackles, one for a loss, and snagged an interception in the fourth quarter.

Rutgers’ longest run went for just 12 yards, which was from quarterback Noah Vedral. That’s a sign that when the Scarlet Knights rarely got through Penn State’s defensive line, the linebackers were there to fill the holes and prevent longer runs.

Secondary: A+

We hate to just give every defensive group an A, but what else can we do when a defense allows just 165 total yards?

Penn State’s secondary was a “No Fly Zone” against Rutgers. Vedral struggled to get anything going, totaling just 91 passing yards and completing 52% of his passes. Only two players for the Scarlet Knights had more than one catch. One was running back Isaih Pacheco, who had four catches for -6 yards, and the other was Bo Melton, who had three catches for 47 yards.

Jaquan Brisker had seven tackles and a pass breakup, while fellow safety Ji’Ayir Brown posted four tackles. Wide receiver/safety hybrid Marquis Wilson made a nice read on a ball and nearly had an interception, but he had to settle for a pass breakup instead.

True freshman Kalen King also almost had a pick, but he still led the team with two pass breakups.

Special Teams: A

Jordan Stout is an incredible punter. The guy flips field position like it’s nothing, folks.

Stout punted the ball eight times, six of which landed inside the 20-yard line. Additionally, two of his punts went over 50 yards. Overall, he averaged 42.9 yards per punt and helped win the field position battle early in the game when Penn State’s offense was struggling.

Stout didn’t attempt any field goals, but he booted every kickoff through the end zone for a touchback.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a junior majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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