Penn State’s Post-Minnesota Report Card

It was a tale of two weeks for the Nittany Lions. Just seven days after getting torched by Michigan, Penn State played Minnesota with a vengeance, winning 45-17 in the 2022 White Out.

For the most part, Penn State was firing on all cylinders. Offensively, the pass and run games were productive, earning 304 passing yards and 175 rushing yards. Defensively, the Nittany Lions held Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim to just 3.4 yards per carry — around half his season average entering the contest.

AP Top 25 Poll voters seemed to be impressed by the performance of James Franklin’s squad, bumping Penn State up to No. 13 in the rankings. Here is how each position group fared in Saturday’s lopsided White Out.

Quarterbacks: A-

After the game’s first three drives, it looked like the quarterbacks’ grade was not going to be a positive one. Two consecutive three-and-outs were immediately followed up with a bad, overthrown interception from Sean Clifford.

Despite the momentum shift, Clifford overcame his weak start, eventually ending with 295 yards and four touchdowns, completing 74% of his passes. Among his passes were a perfectly arched 30-yard pass to Mitchell Tinsley down the left sideline and a 35-yard touchdown pass to Parker Washington in the face of an oncoming pass rush.

Outside of his bad first three drives, Clifford’s game was clinical. By the time Drew Allar relieved him of his duties, the game was so out of hand that the freshman only attempted two passes — one of which he completed for nine yards.

Running Backs: A

The run game also found success, as both Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen averaged over five yards per carry. The duo of true freshmen had near identical impacts.

Singleton racked up 79 yards on 13 carries en route to two touchdowns in the second half. Averaging 6.1 yards per carry, Singleton had three rushes of more than ten yards, including a 30-yard screecher for a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Though he didn’t hit pay dirt, Allen arguably had the same impact as Singleton albeit in a different manner. “Fatman” recorded 77 yards on 15 carries, but his persistence after first contact stood out. On one of Penn State’s many second-half scoring drives, it was Allen’s quick burst through the middle and nasty truck of a Golden Gopher defender that put the team in striking distance.

Wide Receivers: B+

Just as Clifford had a big game, the wide receivers showed out in the 2022 White Out. Combining for 145 yards on 12 catches, Mitchell Tinsley, Parker Washington, and Trey Wallace delivered in a big way.

In past weeks, Franklin publicly discussed the need for more explosive plays on offense. Nine passes gained 15 yards or more, likely satisfying the head coach’s desire.

Tight Ends: A+

After weeks of criticism on the topic, James Franklin and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich were able to successfully involve the tight ends in the passing game. The tight ends combined for 118 yards on seven catches. What’s most impressive is Brenton Strange only accounted for five of those yards on his lone catch.

Sophomore Tyler Warren caught the game’s first touchdown on a 38-yard pass down the middle of the field. Though that was his only catch, it began the offensive onslaught that propelled Penn State to victory.

Sophomore Theo Johnson secured career highs in receptions and receiving yards in his coming-out party with five catches for 75 yards. Johnson’s day began with two big plays of 25 and 18 yards, respectively, on the way to the Nittany Lions’ first points of the night. Later, his productivity was rewarded with an 18-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.

Offensive Line: B

This might be a bit harsh, but the offensive line still showed cause for mild concerns. Of course, it didn’t allow a single sack and just two quarterback hurries, but Clifford took a number of hits. As the team prepares to face a more formidable pass rush in Ohio State, the holes will have to shore up.

Early in the game, the Nittany Lions’ ground game didn’t look promising. The running backs couldn’t find any openings in the line and the offense’s rhythm was slow to get going. Part of that falls on the running backs’ shoulders, but when runs face first contact at the line of scrimmage, it’s tough to expect much progress.

Front Seven: A-

Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim was touted as the biggest threat to a Penn State White Out victory, especially after its front seven performed so poorly against Michigan’s run-first offense. Though Ibrahim entered the game averaging 6.7 yards per carry, he only managed 3.4 yards per attempt against the Nittany Lions.

Open-field tackles weren’t missed nearly as often, and Ibrahim couldn’t consistently bounce off contact. Led by linebackers Curtis Jacobs and Abdul Carter, who played together an unusually significant amount of time Saturday, the front seven didn’t allow itself to be run over. Jacobs and Carter boasted 14 and eight tackles, respectively.

Even without defensive end Chop Robinson (who didn’t dress or warm-up), the pass rush was palpable, too. The unit only recorded one sack, but it was noticeably disruptive when it came to Minnesota’s timing.

Secondary: A

Joey Porter Jr. and Ji’Ayir Brown are studs, serving as leaders of one of college football’s strongest secondaries. Minnesota backup quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis started the game for the Golden Gophers and had an incredibly difficult time.

Kaliakmanis completed only nine of his 22 attempts. Though he nabbed 175 yards and a touchdown, Kaliakmanis also had trouble finding success in the vertical passing game and threw a bad interception to Brown. The team also forced six pass breakups.

After the game, Franklin said the defensive strategy was to force Minnesota to pass more. With the secondary’s success, it’s easy to see why the team felt comfortable challenging the Golden Gophers to throw.

Special Teams: B

Generally, the special teams units had a good game. Superstar punter Barney Amor’s number was called four times, as he punted 169 yards at a 42.3-yard average. The punt team’s biggest error came on Penn State’s first offensive drive.

After Mitchell Tinsley failed to convert a third down attempt, the offense stayed out on the field on 4th and 1. The punt team also jogged on, leaving the Nittany Lions with about double the legal amount of players on the field. Though the punt unit was able to line up without burning a timeout, a false start negated any good fortune.

Nick Singleton lost his spot on the kickoff return team due to his bad decision-making against Michigan, and punt returner Parker Washington could be next. Washington muffed his first punt return and got blasted on his second after not signaling for a fair catch. Special teams coordinator Stacy Collins was openly frustrated on the sidelines after both instances.

Elsewhere, Jake Pinegar converted all of his kicking attempts — a 41-yard field goal and six extra points. Pinegar also took a majority of the kickoffs, with none of the team’s kicks being penalized for going out of bounds.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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