PSU report card
Following is Neil Rudel’s report card from Penn State’s 27-24 loss to Kentucky on Tuesday at the Citrus Bowl:
Quarterback, B: With McSorley this year and for sure vs. Ky., it’s performance vs. grit. Grit A+. Performance C-. Playing w broken foot speaks to heart. Off early (3-9 in 1Q). Keyed 17-0 run and ended 17-33-246, 19-75 rush. Clifford (0-2) had deep pass dropped.
Running back, C: Josh Allen, potential No. 1 pick, all over field. Miles Sanders, potential mid-round pick, drops first pass. Mindset? Wound up 13-51 with 13 on late draw. Otherwise 12-38. Slade (4-27, 6.8) looked good last couple games. Journey (1-4).
Offensive line, D: Unit was disappointing and played under expectation much of season. Allowed six sacks vs.’Cats. Gonzalez drifting downfield and wiping out first-down pass from shadow of goal post didn’t help. Run game (40-164) not dominant.
Wide receiver, C: Thompkins (4-74) led way but dropped pair. McSorley shared Citrus blame, missing open WRs. Screen to Hamler got 41. Shorter (2-17) did well and Dotson (1-24) had clutch catch. Future bright under next WRs coach since Corley’s dismissed.
Tight end, A: Unit combined for five catches and two scores, one each by Bowers (3-32) and Freiermuth (2-38). Tremendous effort on 18-yard TD by Freiermuth, who capped great frosh year with eighth TD. Was also open for another but McS missed.
Offensive coaching, C: OCs measured on third down. 3-for-14 vs. Ky. Too many third-and-longs. Liked screen to Hamler and late draw to Sanders. Also deep shot on Cliff’s first play (Thompkins drop). Use of TEs good. Will see if Cliff fits RPO and what happens w Stevens.
Defensive line, B: Unit played well but can’t say Windsor wouldn’t have helped because he’s a run-stuffer. Miller led with 5.5 stops, Givens had two sacks (5.5 for loss in last three games). Gross-Matos, surprisingly, blanked.
Linebackers, B+: Parsons played his best game with 13 tackles (eight solos). Hit OB hurt. Led team in stops for season with 82, first ever frosh to do so. Brooks had key stop. Brown ejected for targeting.
Secondary, B:Allowed the 54-yarder to Bowden. Otherwise just 67 yards on eight catches. Taylor capped solid year with eight stops, Scott 4.5. Amani was spelled by Castro-Fields, who had a sack.
Defensive coaching, B: Take away the punt return for TD and allowed 20 points. Couple timely blitzes during comeback help force punts. Still, with game on line and everybody knowing run was coming, couldn’t stop it.
Special teams, F: Missed FG, blocked FG, punt returned for TD, kickoff OB. Anything else? Oh, the dumb idea to fake first punt, which gave Ky. a short field. As Wilkes-Barre writer Derek Levarse smartly deduced: PSU outscored 16-0 on special teams. Gillikin did set season mark for punt average (44.0).
The other guy, A: Kentucky’s top players (Allen and Snell) didn’t skip game for personal gain and you could tell Wildcats wanted it more. Not flashy but they started well in both halves and used their strength – the run – to quell PSU’s late threat. Tip of the cap.
Officials, A: ACC crew didn’t play a huge factor and let the kids play. Total of six flags, three each. Would be curious average calls of neutral crew vs. conference games. Had the targeting right on Brown.
Atmosphere, B+: Nice day and draw of 59,167 – all blue and white – made for good atmosphere. Impressive given many other non-playoff bowls play to empty seats. Crowd seemed 50-50. Traffic/access not great.
Overall, C: This game was deemed one to tilt the success level of Penn State’s season. And it did. Lions have much young talent at skill spots and rising defense but many offseason questions on offense and special teams. Blue-White game is April 13.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.