Penn State got its first win of the season Saturday against Michigan.
The Nittany Lions rushed the ball for 254 yards, while also winning the turnover battle, 1-0. Most importantly, they gained some much needed confidence with three games remaining. Although a bowl game may still be possible, it won't be easy, beginning this upcoming weekend against a Rutgers team that's been much more competitive than in previous years.
But before we look ahead to next weekend, our staff grades out each position group from yesterday's win against the Wolverines.
Quarterback - Yesterday's game is proof that Sean Clifford just has to manage games for this offense to have success. The system isn't perfect, but it's pretty good. If he can just play within himself, protect the ball, and make basic throws on 3rd down, all of which he did Saturday, there's no reason to think Penn State can't win its final three games.
Running Backs - Keyvone Lee continues to impress, especially between the tackles. However, what may have went under the radar with Lee was his pass blocking. He was only asked to block 11 times on 57 snaps, but Lee graded out better than all of this teammates. That's great to see for a freshman. Caziah Holmes wasn't able to get the yards after contact that Lee did, but both backs are showing that they have high ceilings. All things considered, you have to give them an A.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - Parker Washington had the best game of his career so far. Nine receptions for 93 yards is great, but his 40 yards after the catch is most encouraging. That's been an issue at times this season, especially without Pat Freiermuth. Isaac Lutz actually graded out the best of any receiver, albeit limited snaps, while KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Daniel George continue to struggle. At tight end, Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson weren't able to make much of an impact. Dotson and Washington both get B's, but the rest of this group brings the score down a bit.
Offensive Line - This unit has struggled in the run game at times but that wasn't the case Saturday, paving the way for 254 yards. When you also consider that the longest rush of the day was a 29-yard scramble from Clifford, a 5.1 yards per carry average is pretty good. Michigan also had just two tackles for loss and one sack.
Defensive Line - No sacks and only one tackle for loss by Hakeem Beamon is certainly below expectations, but they also were better in gap control compared to some games this season. Shaka Toney, PJ Mustipher and Antonio Shelton all held their own, although Jayson Oweh was held in check with just one quarterback pressure.
Linebackers - Brandon Smith and Ellis Brooks once again struggled to get off blocks. Pass coverage also remains an issue for this unit, but give Jesse Luketa credit for playing his best game of the season after his worst game last week. Also, not one of the three starters were charged with a missed tackle. That's the first time we've seen that this season.
Defensive Backs - Jaquan Brisker played his best game of the season. He finished with five tackles, but his coverage is what stood out most when we rewatched the game. Marquis Wilson played his most snaps of the season, and while he held his own in coverage, he needs to improve against the run and in tackling if he wants to continue earning significant reps. But overall, it was a good day for a secondary that's struggled at times this season. Joey Porter Jr. had his best game of the season according to PFF.
Special Teams - Jordan Stout continued his up and down season, kicking two balls out of bounds. A 49-yard field goal attempt is always going to be difficult, but yesterday's attempt never had a chance, going wide right. But when you add in Jake Pinegar's two made field goals and the turnover by the punt coverage team, this equals out to a slightly above average grade.
Coaching - As we've seen for a few weeks now, Kirk Ciarrocca kept things very basic. That's partly because of all the freshmen playing, while also because of all the turnovers. This week, it worked. Also, if you don't include the final drive, when PSU was just trying to drain clock, the Nittany Lions went 4 for 4 in the red zone with three touchdowns. Aside from the fade passes, kudos for some better calls down near the end zone. With that said, clock management was once again an issue at the end of the first half. That knocks this grade down a bit. But overall, give the staff credit for keeping the team engaged after an 0-5 start. That doesn't always happen at the college level.
• Talk about this article inside The Lions Den
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue-White Illustrated
• Like us on Facebook