Penn State report card

Following is Neil Rudel’s report card from Penn State’s 33-14 victory over Pitt on Saturday at Beaver Stadium:


Quarterback C McSorley went 15-28 for 164 yards, three TDs and one pick and didn’t have his best game. Missed several open targets high. Ran eight times for 65, including career-long 36. Stevens got a couple late snaps and caught one pass for a yard.

Running back B Barkley ran just 14 times for 88 yards but still averaged 6.3 per try. Workload limited so far with 32 carries in two games. Also caught four for 45, including TD that broke game open. Sanders got only other RB carry and he fumbled but recovered.

Offensive line C McSorley sacked just once but OL didn’t get consistent push to trigger run game as backs had 25 yards in losses. Bates and Mahon had some trouble. Nelson saw earlier action than last week, McGovern’s snaps better.

Wide receiver B+ Limited numbers because Pitt kept the ball. Hamilton (3-45) led way and Polk, Thompkins and Johnson each caught one. Blacknall blanked for second straight week. Downfield blocking impressive.

Tight end A Gesicki in convo of best TEs in PSU history, joining Kwalick and Brady. Caught four for 39 and two early scores staked 14-0 lead. TDs in five straight games and his 10 now one shy of Jesse James’ career TE mark.

Offensive coaching B Moorhead did his usual nice job with some matchups (early Gesicki TD, Barkley on slower LB) but thought he could have been more aggressive with 14-0 lead in first half.

Defensive line B+ DE Shareef Miller, nicked early vs. Akron, returned to lineup and made strong impact with 2.5 TFLs. Definitely using committee, Windsor added first career sack.

Linebackers C+ Farmer had career-high eight tackles and held up well in red-zone coverage. Cabinda had eight stops, Bowen four. Cam Brown had costly personal foul penalty.

Secondary B Allen and Scott combined for 19 tackles, 12 by Allen, whose big hit forced first half incompletion. Haley and Apke each had four tackles and an interception. Freshman Wade made two solos. Amani limped to locker room before game ended.

Defensive coaching B Pry used timely third-down blitzes with Haley and Bowen, hurrying Pitt into incompletions. Could do better getting off field as Panthers owned clock. Other hand: Pitt had 20 plays inside PSU 25 and scored just one TD.

Special teams B+ Coverage has been outstanding. Ditto PR Thompkins, who has given the Lions another dimension. Gillikin is a weapon. Still don’t like Barkley as KR but for now we’ve lost that debate.

The other guy C+ Pitt competed hard and had good scheme in keeping Lions’ offense off field. Defense tough up front but vulnerable to 26 on edge. Of course, everyone is. Needed to do better in red zone.

Officials B ACC crew didn’t favor Panthers, who were flagged six times to PSU one. So far this is year of reviews on sideline punt returns as was case for PSU vs. Akron, Pitt had one called back. Bates got away with blatant hold right in front of official.

Atmosphere a This matchup is special, evidenced by biggest crowd to see a game in Pittsburgh ever (NFL or college) last year and 109,898 marking largest Beaver Stadium crowd since Ohio State in 2009. Too bad Franklin won’t just admit it.

Overall B It speaks to the Lions’ ranking and expectations that a 19-point win over Pitt was at times underwhelming. Defense on field too long and offense left points on the field. Better performance will be needed after this week’s Super Bowl vs. Georgia State.

Rudel can be reached at