football Edit

Grades: Illinois

Penn State wrapped up the 2020 season with one of its best games of the year, totaling nearly 600 yards of offense and scoring 56 points in a rout of Illinois.

However, it wasn't perfect, as the Nittany Lions also trailed at one point 21-14, as the defense allowed the Illini to score three touchdowns in just over five minutes of play.

After reviewing the film this morning, we look back on yesterday's win with a look at how each position group performed.

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Penn State Nittany Lions Football
RB Caziah Holmes had the best game of his young career Saturday, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and scoring twice.

Quarterback - Sean Clifford fumbled on the second drive of the game, which led to an Illini touchdown, but he finished the game completing 16 of 22 attempts for 285 yards and two scores. His 72.7 percent completion rate was not only his best of the season, but the highest since week four last year against Maryland. Will Levis also threw for a score while rushing for 38 yards on nine carries. Clifford was sacked three times on 3rd down, which helped contribute to a 33 percent conversion rate, but for the most part, both quarterbacks played fine.

Grade: B+

Running Backs - Devyn Ford was held out for the second straight week, allowing freshmen Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee to get plenty of reps. Lee led the team with 85 yards rushing, but Holmes had the better game, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and scoring twice. Both players graded out very good in pass blocking, too.

Grade: A-

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - Jahan Dotson has put together some really good games this season, but he out did them all Saturday night, totaling 183 yards on five receptions and two scores in just the first half. The only disappointment is that he could've broken Deon Butler's record of 216 yards receiving in a game, but Dotson had just one reception in the second half for six yards. Obviously, that's not completely on him. Penn State's young tight ends Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson continued to show signs of their potential. Strange's 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter was on of the best efforts we saw all season. All three of those players get an A+ on the day, but a quiet game from Parker Washington, plus a lack of depth behind him brings down the grade just a little bit.

Grade: A-

Offensive Line - Juice Scruggs, Mike Miranda and Caedan Wallace all graded out as having the best games of their careers. Scruggs was especially noteworthy with a few highlight reel blocks. Five sacks allowed is a bit alarming, but a few of those weren't because Clifford wasn't given enough time. Add in nearly 600 yards of offense and it's hard to find much fault here.

Grade: A-

Defensive Line - Shaka Toney, Antonio Shelton and PJ Mustipher all had a sack each, while Shane Simmons had three quarterback hurries. They allowed a few too many holes in that first quarter, but rallied strong in the second quarter and beyond. DT Dvon Ellies also showed some promise in limited snaps.

Grade: B

Linebackers - This unit really struggled in the first quarter, but all three starters rallied strong. After a tough start to the season, Jesse Luketa put together three good games to end the year, with yesterday being arguably his best game yet. Brandon Smith continues to show that he has all the potential in the world. If he can become more consistent next year, he has the potential to be a game-changer at the position.

Grade: B-

Defensive Backs - Illinois hasn't been able to pass all season, and that continued Saturday, as Isaiah Williams threw for just 120 yards. Keaton Ellis made a great play to secure the first interception of his career. Similar to Luketa, Ellis struggled earlier this season, but he rallied and finished strong in recent weeks. Jaquan Brisker played great against the run, totaling seven tackles, while also adding a sack. He was only targeted once and didn't allow a reception.

Grade: B

Special Teams - Lamont Wade had a 100-yard touchdown return, while Dotson added a 50-yard punt return. Jake Pinegar's missed field goal keeps this from being an A+, but whenever a team breaks more than one big return, you can expect a pretty good grade from us.

Grade: A-

Coaching - Slow starts is something James Franklin and his staff have to look into this off-season. That was a serious problem much of the season, and it showed again the final two weeks. Give credit for making the right adjustments, but this team can't continue to hand out early leads to its opponents if 2021 is going to be anything close to previous seasons.

Grade: A-


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