Penn State’s Post-Northwestern Report Card

It wasn’t pretty, but sometimes it doesn’t have to be.

Penn State escaped Beaver Stadium with a 17-7 win over Northwestern Saturday afternoon in cold and rainy conditions. Penn State’s offense didn’t have its best performance, but its defense and special teams came up in massive spots throughout the entire game.

Ahead of the team’s bye week, let’s evaluate how each position group performed against the Wildcats.

Quarterbacks: C

Sean Clifford obviously didn’t bring his best stuff to the table on Saturday. The sixth-year signal caller completed 10-of-20 passes for 140 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception, too. It was a rainy day and not easy to throw the ball, but there were some second-half passes to wide-open receivers that Clifford missed by a considerable amount. It wasn’t something that you want to see from someone in their sixth season.

Running Backs: D+

Each running back coughed up a fumble, with true freshman Nick Singleton giving up two. There’s no way to sugarcoat it; that just can’t happen. Yes, some Wildcats made very good plays and got their helmets on the ball, but those four fumbles gave Northwestern every chance to come back in the game.

On a more positive note, the running backs did have solid performances outside of the turnovers. Kaytron Allen and Singleton each had 21 carries, respectively totaling 86 and 87 yards, with Singleton also registering a rushing touchdown. Additionally, Keyvone Lee got into the mix with 41 rushing yards on 10 carries.

Wide Receivers: B

It was a quiet day for the receivers overall, but the rain made it hard for the group to get action, as the Nittany Lions didn’t throw the ball much. Parker Washington had a productive day with four catches for 73 yards. Mitchell Tinsley followed behind him with two catches for 16 yards. Overall, the unit did well when called upon and had good hands given the weather conditions.

Tight Ends: B

Brenton Strange is that dude. Not only did he have a highlight-reel hurdling touchdown, but he also did a great job blocking for the running backs.

He finished the game with only that one catch for 20 yards, and Theo Johnson was right behind him with one catch for eight yards.

Offensive Line: A-

This was easily one of the best performances for Penn State’s offensive line in a very long time outside of its also dominant performance against Auburn a few weeks ago. The unit allowed only three quarterback hurries and zero sacks, marking the second time that’s happened this season.

The line put the run and pass games in the best position to succeed by opening up some gaping holes for the backs and giving Clifford lots of time in the pocket. If this line holds up as it has in two of the last three weeks, Penn State’s offense will certainly reap the benefits.

Front Seven: B+

PJ Mustipher made the play of the game when he stuffed Ryan Hilinski at the goal line in the fourth quarter to preserve Penn State’s 17-7 lead.

Similar to Northwestern, the Nittany Lions weren’t really able to get to the quarterback, though. Penn State finished the game with three quarterback hurries and only one sack, thanks to Nick Tarburton. On the other hand, the group did a great job of stopping the Wildcats’ rushing attack. Northwestern was held to just 63 total yards on 28 carries.

Secondary: A

This was probably the best game the secondary had all season. Despite the tough weather, Northwestern committed to its passing game, and this group rose to the occasion. Hilinski was held to only 210 total passing yards and one touchdown, with an interception, too.

In addition to the turnover, the unit registered eight pass breakups in the game. That’s very good, folks.

Special Teams: A

Barney Amor razzle-dazzled Penn Staters, once again. In a close 17-7 game, the field position battle was crucial for the Nittany Lions, and Amor gave Penn State the boost in that category. Three of Amor’s five punts were downed inside the 10-yard line.

Jake Pinegar also had a solid day himself, nailing a 38-yard field goal on his only attempt.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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