Penn State’s No.4 football is gearing up for next weekend’s clash with the Iowa No.3.
James Franklin’s squad improved to 5-0 last weekend with an impressive 24-0 shutout against Indiana. The Nittany Lions offense did what it needed to do, while Brent Pry’s defense once again demonstrated talent in just about every group of positions.
Before we get to the Hawkeyes, let’s take a look at Penn State’s scores against the Hoosiers.
Quarterbacks: B +
Sean Clifford wasn’t overly impressive against the Hoosiers, but the senior redshirt was once again efficient and productive in his decision-making all night long. While he totaled just 178 yards in the air, Clifford managed to move well in the pocket all night and kept the plays alive on several occasions. He took no sacks and was an efficient scrambler finishing second on the team with 58 rushing yards.
Two of the quarterback’s three touchdown passes were on plays in which he came out of the pocket and appeared to be doing something out of nothing. This was evidenced during a 30-yard touchdown at Jahan Dotson in which Clifford lined up to his right on a key fourth down play.
Clifford threw an ugly interception late in the first half that set Indiana deep into Penn State territory, but Pry’s defense helped lift the quarterback and maintain the goal line.
Ta’Quan Roberson saw some time for Mike Yurcich’s offense on Saturday at the end of the fourth quarter, but the second player in the red jersey only had a chance to hand the ball over on short possession.
Running backs: C +
The Nittany Lions totaled 209 rushing yards over the Hoosiers, but that number is significantly inflated by the ground Clifford picked up in his runs. Keyvone Lee was virtually the only effective rusher of the night, as he led the team with 74 yards. Lee’s 44-yard blast was the most notable rushing game of the night.
Noah Cain “fought” against Villanova last week and saw only one postponement, but he didn’t look alike this weekend either. Yurcich was clearly trying to get the junior started all night as he led the team with 11 carries, but he only totaled 23 yards on those opportunities.
John Lovett has seen 10 carries and made some great runs, including back-to-back 10 and 13-yard carries late in the game, but he’s never been able to start consistently either. Devyn Ford was the only other full-back to hit, as he tallied 12 yards on his lone attempt.
Wide receivers: B +
Jahan Dotson’s campaign to become the country’s top wide receiver continued on Saturday night. The senior hit paid dirt twice, including a hitch in the back end of the end zone that gave the Nittany Lions a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
Dotson ended his night with eight catches worth 84 yards, but the other wide starters at Penn State didn’t make as many key contributions. Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith both totaled two catches on the night, but only gained 55 yards between them. However, one of Washington’s catches was a clutch side grab that helped the Nittany Lions keep the chains moving on 4th and 7th.
Outside of Dotson’s big performance, it wasn’t necessarily a record-breaking night for the Nittany Lions receiving core, but the group did enough to get the Penn State offense to put up a few goal kicks on the Hoosiers. .
Tight ends: B
Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson each only had one take on Indiana, but Strange’s take came on the night’s first score, which helped electrify the Stripe Out crowd in prime time.
Johnson was targeted twice on the night, the first of which he drew an obvious pass interference call which helped establish Strange’s score.
Johnson and Strange’s pair haven’t necessarily had a huge impact on the passing game yet, but both add value as blockers and remain consistent options for Clifford when targeted.
Offensive line: B +
Clifford’s ability to move well in the pocket and keep games alive wouldn’t be possible without solid offensive online play. The quarterback was never sacked overnight and only rushed three times as Indiana’s pass rush was largely neutralized by Phil Trautwein’s squad.
While passing protection impressed once again, the lack of a rushed attack is still a cause for concern for this group.
Defensive line: A
Penn State’s defense has been essentially perfect all night, and that was anchored by the big guy play up front.
PJ Mustipher led the group with six total tackles – including one for a loss – but Arnold Ebiketie was once again the one who flashed grabbing a sack, a blocked kick and three tackles in total.
Indiana’s rushed offense was capped at just 69 total yards, while quarterbacks Michael Penix Jr. and Jack Tuttle never really looked comfortable in the pocket with all the pressure they took. . Each had completion rates of around 50%, and while much of that can be attributed to Penn State’s defensive backs, the defensive line deserves credit for forcing ugly passes with the pressure it gets. they suffered.
Apart from Ebiketie and Mustipher, Dvon Ellis added two tackles while Jesse Luketa added three as a defensive end / linebacker hybrid.
If this is a good performance for the Penn State defense, chances are the linebackers played pretty well. This was the case on Saturday.
Ellis Brooks was all over against the Hoosiers, as he led Penn State with eight total tackles, while Brandon Smith added five tackles and a sack. Both were key elements in the Nittany Lions’ constant passing rush and made tackles that filled any type of running game for Indiana. Curtis Jacobs also added value with four total tackles.
The Penn State linebackers were literally all over the place against the Hoosiers. Saturday was just another example of the talent and experience of this group, as was the rest of the defensive unit.
Yes, it was a great night for the Penn State defensive backs as well.
Indiana totaled 195 yards in the air, but couldn’t get any sort of consistent passing offense against the Penn State defense. Ji’Ayir Brown and Joey Porter Jr. both had interceptions, the last of the pair making a sliding grab to return the ball late in the first half.
Star safety Jaquan Brisker added four tackles – including 0.5 for a loss – while Tariq Castro-Fields interrupted two passes. Even Daequan Hardy stepped into the action on his first start, reversing a pass on a shot from Tuttle in the end zone.
The group as a whole finished with an impressive six assists.
Special teams: A-
Jordan Stout once again put in a strong performance as Mr. Everything of Penn State on special teams. Although he wasn’t able to score a touchdown on his first kickoff, he forced a good catch and made it easy into the end zone for the rest of the night.
Stout also pinned the Hoosiers inside their own 20s on four of his six punches and even managed a 50-yard field goal for the dagger at the end of the win.
Penn State didn’t have much in the second leg, but Dotson pulled off a solid 16-yard return on a late-game Indiana punt.