Following is Neil Rudel's report card from Penn State's 45-21 victory over Purdue on Saturday at Beaver Stadium:
POSITION GRADE COMMENT
Quarterback B+Hackenberg (16-23-212) averaged solid 13.2 per completion and 9.2 per attempt. Also booted 4-yard TD rush nicely. Lone blotch was late pick he should have eaten. Ferguson mopped last series.
Running back BZwinak (26-149, no yards lost) and Belton (19-81) combined for 230 yards and four TDs. But both fumbled (Zwinak recovered his). That led to earlier-than-usual chance for Lynch, who gained 44 on nine tries, including five totes on final series.
Offensive line B+Got foe it could mush, and ground game pounded out 5.0 average on 58 tries to keep defense fresh. Clean outing save Dieff false start at 3 and Howle's hold on first down after midfield turnover. Shrive saw some snaps.
Wide receiver BRobinson (8-98) broke own record for season catches (now 81) and another pass interference flag. Felder benched for first quarter and saw limited time, giving way to Lewis (3-19), who blocked well. No other WRs with catches as run was focus.
Tight end AOnly four catches, but they were key: James' early route and first down, his 58-yard catch/run, Breneman's great effort on TD and Carter's blocking. James' drop was behind him. For talk of lack of use, Nits No. 2 in country in TE catches, now with 47.
Offensive coaching AOB re-committed to run, especially in red zone, and he did it by using power sets - mixing in two TEs, sometimes a third tackle and fullback Pat Zerbe. Clicked 10 of 12 on third down. Also lined up TE in backfield for play-action.
Defensive line BBarnes and Jones both had sacks, and Nassib got into act late. Johnson recovered fumble (Barnes forced) and Zettel batted down pass. Unit contributed to six overall sacks on young Purdue QB.Barnes bit on Purdue TD.
Linebacker B+With Kline out for year, Wertman started and had couple solos (also missed a big one in open field), a sack and FF. Frosh Bell (three stops) made presence felt before injury. Hull led with 6 stops plus FR/FF. Carson just 3.
Secondary B-Improved outing as Amos (eight stops, 2.5 for loss) and Lucas (three stops, pick) had strong game on corners. Unit generally in better position, though Purdue got wide open a couple times. Keiser added seven stops.
Defensive coachingB+Nits have now allowed just two defensive TDs in their last six quarters and four in their last 10. Shut down run, sent blitzes and didn't let Purdue get comfortable. Not ready for Boiler TD on QB option.
Special teams DKickoff coverage unit sprung big leaks with 100-yard TD return to get back in game (28-14) before half and another 37-yarder that Ficken saved huge gain. Personnel now under review. Also yielded fake punt. Nice to see Garrity (1-9) back on punts, replacing Walker.
The other guy C-Considering its 1-9 record, Purdue was more spunky than expected, keeping it at two-score game almost throughout. Etling performed well. Lions dominated on ground, but longest run was 16 yards so Boilers competed.
Officials BPSU got three first downs by pass interference in the first half, and thought a couple of them were bang-bang, especially the deep shot to Breneman. Quick review verified Breneman TD at goal line.
Atmosphere BAttendance of 96K for four-loss team, with a noon kick, is probably reality barring ticket restructuring. Despite that, good student turnout. Pre-game moment honoring State College grad Adam Hartswick, who lost his legs in Afghanistan, was especially touching.
OverallBSave first half at Minnesota, defense riding best stretch of season. Offensively, will be curious how much emphasis on run game, which cured the Lions' red-zone issues, carries over to final two games.