PSU-MSU grades: Nittany Lions roll in second half

The highest-graded players and top storylines from Penn State's win over Michigan State.

| 6 days ago
(Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

(Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

PSU-MSU grades: Nittany Lions roll in second half


Penn State Nittany Lions 45, Michigan State Spartans 12

Here are the key takeaways and highest-graded players from Penn State’s 45-12 win over Michigan State.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Quarterback grade: Trace McSorley, 76.5

McSorley virtually perfect from clean pocket

The Nittany Lions’ QB had it working pretty much no matter how you slice it on Saturday, but Michigan State had almost no success stopping him when they didn’t get pressure. McSorley attempted 14 passes without pressure in his face on Saturday, completing 11 of them for 257 yards, two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 QB Rating. When he was pressured his rating plummeted all the way down to 149.3. McSorley also had it working in the deep-to-intermediate ranges of the field, completing 9 of 13 throws for 279 yards, three touchdowns and a 151.4 QB Rating on balls that traveled at least 10 yards in the air.

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Top offensive grades:

TE Mike Gesicki, 82.7
WR Chris Godwin, 79.9
QB Trace McSorley, 76.5
T Chasz Wright, 74.4
WR Saeed Blacknall, 69.8

Skill players lead way for Nittany Lions offense

Gesicki and Godwin combined to catch seven balls on seven targets for 199 yards and three touchdowns; McSorley had a 158.3 passer rating on the day when targeting either one of them. Blacknall hauled in three balls on five targets for just 29 yards total, but two of his three catches resulted in Penn State first downs. The offensive line consistently failed to open up rushing lanes on the day, but they had a nice day in pass protection, allowing just six total pressures with none of them being a hit or a sack.

Top defensive grades:

LB Manny Bowen, 79.5
ED Garrett Sickels, 76.9
DI Kevin Givens, 75.7
ED Shareef Miller, 74.1
CB Grant Haley, 73.6

Bowen caps off sophomore regular season nicely

After playing in just 14.2 percent of snaps last season, sophomore LB Manny Bowen was on the field for 62.3 percent of snaps in year two, and the way he’s handled the increased role leads me to believe that he could be one of the breakout stars of 2017. Against Michigan State, Bowen led the Nittany Lions defense with five stops (a stop is a solo tackle which constitutes as a loss for the offense, given the situation) while also gaining three total pressures (he had a sack, hit and hurry) on just six pass rushing snaps. Sickels led the defense with five total pressures and on the back end Haley allowed four catches on five targets for 35 yards, with two of those catches coming in the fourth quarter with the game pretty much out of reach.

Michigan State Spartans

Quarterback grades: Damion Terry, 59.4; Tyler O’Connor, 48.8

Offense stagnant once Terry goes down

When Damion Terry went down, he had just picked up a first down with his feet on a well-executed speed option play and Michigan State was deep in Penn State territory with a 6-3 lead. Tyler O’Connor did step in and lead the Spartans down the field on a fairly impressive FG drive to close out the first half, but he had nothing working in the second half. Throwing from a clean pocket, O’Connor was able to complete just 15 of 24 passes for 104 yards, good for a 72.2 QB Rating; when he was pressured he was a disaster, completing just two of nine passes for a total of 14 yards, good for a passer rating of just 39.6 (see below). O’Connor attempted just eight passes that traveled at least 10 yards in the air (his only attempt of at least 20 yards fell incomplete) and he completed just two of them for 29 yards.

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Top offensive grades:

TE Josiah Price, 84.5
C Benny McGowan, 74.7
WR R.J. Shelton, 73.7
HB LJ Scott, 67.6
G Brian Allen, 65.9

TE Price leads quiet Spartan offense

Josiah Price had a nice game, hauling in six of seven passes for 63 yards; and R.J. Shelton chipped in five catches on nine targets for 74 yards, but that’s the bulk of the production out of the passing attack. On the ground, LJ Scott averaged just 3.7 yards per carry but they were hard earned yards, as 42 of his 59 yards came after contact. On the offensive line, both McGowan and Allen allowed just one pressure apiece while at least holding their own as run blockers; LT Cole Chewins on the other hand allowed seven total pressures on the day while putting up a 36.0 run blocking grade.

Top defensive grades:

LB Chris Frey, 81.0
LB Riley Bullough, 80.0
DI Mike Panasiuk, 76.2
DI Raequan Williams, 74.9
ED Robert Bowers, 67.6

Front-seven stifles the run

The Spartans had plenty of players grade well against the run, led by Chris Frey, who finished the game with four stops and a team-high 82.6 grade in run defense; Bullough, Panasiuk, Williams and Bowers all combined for another 10 stops, with each having at least two. They weren’t able to get to sack – or even land a hit – on McSorley though in this one and on the 23 passes aimed into the coverage of Michigan State defenders they allowed a passer rating of 158.3, which as has already been mentioned above, is perfect.