Michigan-PSU grades: Run game powers Wolverines to win

The highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from Michigan’s 49-10 home win over Penn State.

| 4 weeks ago
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Michigan-PSU grades: Run game powers Wolverines to win

Michigan Wolverines 49, Penn State Nittany Lions, 10

Here are the highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from Michigan’s 49-10 home win over Penn State in Week 4.

Michigan Wolverines

Quarterback grade: Wilton Speight, 67.2

It was a solid but unspectacular display from Wilton Speight, who relied on a strong running game and didn’t do much downfield after a rough Week 3. Of his 21 completions, 18 came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, and all three of the downfield hits were at intermediate range, rather than deep (20+ yards). Like his counterpart, he preferred to scramble rather than climb the pocket against potential outside pressure, which resulted in several pressures easier than they should have been for the Penn State rushers.

Top offensive grades:

RT Erik Magnuson, 80.4
LT Grant Newsome, 75.5
WR Amara Darboh, 75.5
RG Kyle Kalis, 75.4
TE Jake Butt, 74.1 


Michigan had massive success with power-and-man concepts in the run game, gaining more than 300 yards and scoring six times on the ground. Four rushers saw at least eight carries (De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, Karan Higdon, and Chris Evans) and each averaged at least 6.7 yards per carry and broke two tackles. The offensive line made much of that happen, especially right tackle Erik Magnuson, who made multiple key blocks to seal the edge and generated big movement on several double teams near the goal line. He also ended with just one pressure allowed in 38 snaps in pass protection. 

Top defensive grades:

DT Maurice Hurst, 84.4
S Delano Hill, 80.7
DT Matthew Godin, 79.2
CB Jourdan Lewis, 78.7
LB Mike McCray, 78.5 


Among multiple standouts in the front-seven was tackle Maurice Hurst, who in 30 snaps compiled four defensive stops and three pressures (a fourth was nullified by penalty), including a sack at 0:26 of the second quarter, where Hurst won easily to the outside of guard Connor McGovern to drop McSorley.

At the second level, inside linebacker Mike McCray bounced back from a below-average Week 3, getting his hands on two of four passes thrown into his coverage, including an interception late in the fourth quarter. Penn State’s QB had a meager 22.9 passer rating on those throws.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Quarterback grade: Trace McSorley, 56.4

Overall fairly conservative play from Penn State’s signal caller against PFF’s second-highest graded defense. He attempted only seven passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield, missing more than he hit on those plays with just two completions. Of the incompletions, only one was egregious – a coverage misread that resulted in his only interception at 3:27 of the fourth quarter.

As expected, McSorley saw frequent pressure (45.7 percent of dropbacks) and took six sacks, in part due to poor pocket presence at times. He also attempted just one pass to the left side of the field, outside the numbers, which is where Michigan’s top corner Jourdan Lewis spent 40 snaps on the outside and five in the slot.

Top offensive grades:

RT Andrew Nelson, 73.5
C Brian Gaia, 68.8
RB Saquon Barkley, 67.8
WR DaeSean Hamilton, 60.6
LG Ryan Bates, 57.7

One of the few performances of note on Penn State’s offense was right tackle Andrew Nelson. He went back and forth in the run game against linebacker Mike McCray and tackle Matthew Godin, ending with slightly more negative plays, but only surrendered one pressure in 38 snaps in pass protection. None of the team’s other linemen graded better than average, and they particularly struggled at the right guard spot. Both Derek Dowrey and Connor McGovern saw snaps there, but the two combined for four pressures and both played below-average in run blocking.

Without much help from his blockers, RB Saquon Barkley still gained near 4 yards per carry, but ended up being more effective as a receiver, catching five of six targets for 77 yards, with several first down pickups and a team-high 118.8 passer rating for McSorley on those plays.

Top defensive grades:

S Marcus Allen, 78.7
LB Manny Bowen, 78.5
CB John Reid, 75.4
CB Christian Campbell, 751
DE Torrence Brown, 73.3

Penn State’s defense got crushed in the run game, in part due to 15 missed tackles – a count within range of the team’s average over the first three weeks. But for the most part, they played well in the passing game. Pressured Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight on roughly 38 percent of his dropbacks, while in the secondary safety Marcus Allen and corner Christian Campbell combined to allow just one catch in nine targets, with two pass defenses between them.

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