Penn State report card — Illinois

Following is Neil Rudel’s report card from Penn State’s 20-18 loss to Illinois in nine overtimes Saturday at Beaver Stadium:

Quarterback D

Clifford was compromised. He was reluctant to run, which he often does to make key first downs. He completed 19-of-34 for just 165 yards but lacked usual accuracy. Credit his toughness as he took some shots.

Running back D

Staff still doesn’t want to pick one so it continues to operate with an everybody-gets-trophy mentality. Lee (7-24) started, Cain (11-43) doesn’t look like he has his 2019 explosion, Lovett (5-21) had long gainer of 18. Ford must be injured.

Offensive line F

Painful to watch. On first series, Lee dumped for 3-yard loss and Clifford sacked. Net total of 62 yards rushing. Clifford sacked four times. Desperation obvious as G Scruggs and C Miranda switched spots in fourth quarter.

Wide receiver/TE D

Theo Johnson’s drop over the middle in the third quarter, with a 10-7 lead, was huge. Strange (2-2). Dotson (6-58) had one 36-yarder but the rest dink and dunks. Lambert-Smith (3-49) had TD early.

Offensive coaching F

So they’re paying two OCs — Yurcich to preside over this mess and Ciarrocca to go away after last year. 4-17 on third down. Seven plays from the 3-yard line and only one worked in the OTs. Also didn’t like Warren trying to hit an injured Clifford with gadget in third OT.

Defensive line D

Mustipher’s void was as large as Clifford’s absence in second half at Iowa. Without PJ (knee, out for year), the front four was gouged on for 357 yards. Ebiketie was especially vulnerable. Tangelo, Tarburton combined for sack and forced fumble. Izzard was bright spot.

Linebackers D

You can’t give up as many rushing yards as Nits did and feel good about it. Brooks had 11 tackles, but he also dropped a catchable interception. Smith forced a fumble. Jacobs made an alert pick early.

Secondary C-

Strong run support. Brown led with 13 stops, Porter nine, Brisker eight. Held up in one-on-one coverage. If Brisker makes pick of floating pass with 13-10 lead in first overtime — eight OTs ago — the game is over.

Defensive coaching C-

Weren’t ready for Illinois run scheme. Despite having ball stuffed down their throats and facing an offense that couldn’t throw (just 38 yards), Lions only allowed 10 points in regulation. That has to be enough to win.

Special teams B

Stout missed a 40-yarder with a 10-7 lead, which may have prevented OT as game proved. But he’s been terrific and did make three FGs and averaged 46.9 on eight punts with six inside 20. Coverage solid, although great kickers limit return yards these days.

The other guy A

Though limited offensively, Bielema sure played to Illinois’ strengths and Illini played like Bielema’s old Wisconsin teams. Sometimes, they didn’t even line up receivers. Impressive toughness up front on both sides of the ball.

Overall F

The individual grades may not add up to an F, but this collective effort – starting with team not being prepared — doesn’t deserve better than a failing grade.

Rudel can be reached at nrudel@altoonamirror.com.


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