UGA-PSU grades: Leonard Floyd excels in Bulldogs' win
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Georgia Bulldogs’ 24-17 TaxSlayer Bowl win over the Penn State Nittany Lions:
Penn State Nittany Lions
–Christian Hackenberg (+0.7) has had a challenging final two seasons at Penn State’s quarterback, grading very poorly in PFF’s system during his two-year run under head coach James Franklin (he accumulated far more impressive box-score stats and positive opinions about him during his true freshman season under Bill O’Brien, the season prior to the start of PFF College grading). His college career ended with a second-quarter shoulder injury in this one that knocked him out of the game, as he announced following the game that he’ll be leaving school a year early to enter the NFL draft. He figures to be a fascinating draft evaluation, as he is considered by many scouts to be an excellent talent but he simply hasn’t had the production to match.
–Once Trace McSorley (-0.1) took over, the Nittany Lions got a possible taste for next year’s starting quarterback. As young QBs often do, he produced some positive moments but also a lot of negative plays. Surprisingly, he fared better when pressured, completing 62.5 percent of passes on those dropbacks compared to 45 percent when throwing from a clean pocket. He’ll need to get better about staying in the pocket, as he often left the pocket when his first read wasn’t there, even though his pass protection was holding up well. His best throw was a touchdown pass to DaeSean Hamilton (+1.7) that brought PSU to within one score, as he delivered it perfectly in between three defenders.
— The Penn State defense has been built upon their defensive tackle pairing of Austin Johnson (+6.3) and Anthony Zettel (+8.7), and they both were outstanding in what were their final games for the Nittany Lions. The strength of Johnson’s season has been his play in the run game, while still being able to provide a decent amount of pass rush. Once again he showed what a handful he is to opponents in the running game, able to clog up lanes and force the running back to change his point of attack. Zettel this season has been stronger as a pass-rusher than as a run defender, but against the Bulldogs he was a consistent handful in the run game.
DL Anthony Zettel (+8.7)
DL Austin Johnson (+6.3)
LB Brandon Bell (+3.5)
WR DaeSean Hamilton (+1.7)
WR Chris Godwin (+1.5)
–The Bulldogs did not put the pressure on QB Greyson Lambert (-0.3) to have to win the game on his own, and he responded with an unspectacular but mistake-free performance. He completed his only two 20-plus-yard attempts, including one for a touchdown, but did little else throwing the football. Still, his sound decision-making allowed UGA’s defense to take over the game.
–Redshirt sophomore CB Aaron Davis (+5.4) has the best game of his young career. Outside of the 17-yard touchdown catch he allowed, he only gave up three catches for 11 yards on four targets, and was a standout at getting receivers to the ground quickly after the catch. He produced seven total stops in this one, two of which came in run support off the edge and five were after the catch.
–The Georgia defense has been very strong overall this season, but their standout player has been outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (+6.7), who finished the season as the sixth-highest-graded edge defender in the country. He had one of the better games of his season in the bowl win, recording seven total pressures on just 21 pass-rushing snaps and also recording three stops in the running game.
LB Leonard Floyd (+6.7)
CB Aaron Davis (+5.4)
CB Maikon Parish (+2.8)
LB Lorenzo Carter (+2.1)
LB Jordan Jenkins (+1.8)