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Penn State’s Post-Central Michigan Report Card

A win is a win, and No. 11 Penn State football has four of them to boot now.

After a slightly sluggish but ultimately inconsequential outing against Central Michigan, the Nittany Lions will head into Big Ten play with considerable momentum. Despite a scary second-quarter performance, Penn State got the job done against the Chippewas and added a tally to its win column.

Before shifting focus to Northwestern, let’s hand out some grades for the final matchup of non-conference play.

Quarterbacks: B

Sean Clifford did his best Sean Clifford impression Saturday and put together an overall solid performance that was knocked down by a stretch of inconsistency.

The quarterback started out 8-for-8 through the air but heard some boos from the Beaver Stadium crowd after putting together a 7-for-17 stretch. Overall, Clifford completed 65% of his 34 passes and threw three touchdowns.

QB1 still hasn’t thrown an interception since the near-disastrous pick-six in West Lafayette. However, he looked a bit skittish in the pocket at times against Central Michigan and struggled to complete deep passes, with the longest throw of the day being just 29 yards. But, it would be hard to say Clifford had a bad game.

Drew Allar also made his fourth appearance in as many games and completed two of his five passes for 20 yards and was sacked once. Not as electric of an appearance for the true freshman as in past games, but there’s still more than a lot to be excited about.

Running Backs: A-

True freshman Kaytron Allen shifted into the limelight against the Chippewas, giving Penn State three consecutive games with a rusher hitting the 100-yard mark. Allen averaged 8.5 yards per carry en route to a 111-yard day with a touchdown to boot, proving that it’s not just the Nick Singleton show.

Allen is now tied for the most touchdowns on the season for Penn State with four. His field vision was particularly exceptional on Saturday.

Singleton had a solid day, too. He averaged 3.5 yards on 12 carries after being named the starter. While the true freshman is known for his speed, he displayed plenty of backfield toughness, too. No other rusher got a touch, but Devyn Ford caught one pass for no net gain.

Wide Receivers: B+

It was a quiet, but not bad, day for the receiving corps as no one guy has yet emerged to replace Jahan Dotson’s production from last season. Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley continue to claim WR1 status, as they were both targeted nine times.

Tinsley caught his third touchdown of the season and racked up 51 yards on the day, while Washington logged 64 of his own and had a solid day making guys miss after the catch. While it didn’t show up in the final stats, Trey Wallace and Tinsley both appeared to drop catchable balls on back-to-back plays during Penn State’s second-quarter slump.

Liam Clifford also caught a ball from his brother, Sean, for the first time in live game action, which was a cool moment. The wide receiver hasn’t played much this season, so it was a bit odd that he got involved in the second quarter.

Tight Ends: A-

Brenton Strange is emerging as one of Clifford’s favorite targets this season and has been an integral part of the offense. He caught all five of his targets and logged two touchdowns with a total of 42 yards on the day.

Mike Yurcich continues to feature packages with both Strange and Tyler Warren on the field on running downs, and both of them are pulling their weight. Strange is doing an exceptionally good job blocking this season and that continued Saturday.

Theo Johnson is also starting to work his way back into the offense after missing the first two games of the season. He caught one pass for 11 yards against the Chippewas. Warren was charged with a drop and did not catch any of his two targets.

Offensive Line: A-

James Franklin isn’t ready to declare victory on the offensive line just yet, but this group has come a long way from last year’s struggles.

Phil Trautwein’s crew has been trending up all season and it came out against Central Michigan with another solid showing. Sean Clifford was not sacked and holes continued to be there in the rushing attack. Just like the rest of the offense, this group took a step back in the second quarter, allowing more pressure and speeding up the quarterback’s decision making. But, the unit was also able to recover and finished with an overall positive day.”

Front Seven: B

After a fiery showing against Auburn, Penn State’s front seven didn’t have as impressive of performance against Central Michigan. The group was getting lots of pressure early on, but the Chippewas offensive line seemed to adjust and stop the bleeding.

PJ Mustipher led the team with six tackles, and linebacker Abdul Carter, who’s quickly working his way into a starting role as a true freshman, was right behind him with five of his own. Dani Dennis-Sutton also registered two sacks in garbage time, which is another good sign for the future.

Curtis Jacobs also recovered a fumble after the Chippewas muffed a punt. He had three tackles on the day.

Secondary: A

This group is really emerging as one of the more talented secondaries in the Big Ten. It came up with three turnovers on Saturday, highlighted by takeaway king Zakee Wheatley.

Wheatley also finished with five tackles, tied for second-most on the team. Joey Porter Jr. continued a lockdown season at cornerback and also was tied with Wheatley and Carter at the five-tackle mark.

Ji’Ayir Brown and Kalen King got in on the fun with four tackles a piece, with King forcing and recovering a fumble. Brown logged two quarterback hurries and added considerable backfield pressure when he was called to blitz.

Although he didn’t have a tackle, Johnny Dixon continued to impress at cornerback and is rightfully sharing starting snaps with King. He had a team-high three pass breakups and came away with an acrobatic interception.

Special Teams: B

Barney Amor is simply a star. Three of his four punts pinned Central Michigan within the 20-yard line. Additionally, he basically forced a muff, which Penn State recovered, with some nasty hang time.

Washington was effective in the punt return game too, taking two of them back for 19 total yards. He continues to show good decision-making in this phase of the game and drastically improved the Nittany Lions’ field position in one instance Saturday.

However, poor performances at placekicking continue to be a storyline of the season. Jake Pinegar missed a 38-yard try and true freshman Sander Sahaydak couldn’t convert a long 56-yarder. An extra point was blocked, too.

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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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