Michigan-Penn State grades: Wolverines' defense dominates
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Michigan’s 28-16 win over Penn State on Saturday:
–Quarterback Jake Rudock (-1.3 game grade) came into the day coming off his best two starts this season (he led the nation in our PFF QB grades the last two weeks), but against the Nittany Lions he had a mixed day. When he was not under pressure he was very consistent, going 19 of 26 with 217 yards and a PFF grade of +2.0. However, the storyline was flipped when the Nittany Lions’ pass rush got to him; he was pressured on 15 dropbacks, and on those he only completed 50 percent of his passes for 39 yards and a QB rating of 22.6 and a -2.0 PFF grade.
–The story of the game was the consistent pressure the defense was able to create on Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg (-0.8). The Wolverines managed to get pressure on 65 percent of Hackenberg dropbacks. The most successful pass-rushers were DE Taco Charlton (+4.6), who had seven total pressures with two sacks, and DE Chris Wormley (+3.7), who had 10 total pressures also with two sacks.
–Penn State only attempted 17 run plays, but outside of the first run to Saquon Barkley (+0.6), which went for 56 yards, the Wolverines held the Nittany Lions to just 17 yards on 16 designed run attempts. Both of the Wolverines’ starting defensive tackles created havoc in the run game, especially Maurice Hurst (+4.0), who had an outstanding run-stop percentage of 23.1 thanks to three stops on 13 run snaps. The Wolverines won this game thanks to their overwhelming talent on the defensive line against the weakness of Penn State’s offensive line.
DE Taco Charlton (+4.6)
DT Maurice Hurst (+4.0)
DE Chris Wormley (+3.7)
OL Mason Cole (+2.8)
LB James Ross (+2.0)
Penn State Nittany Lions
–Christian Hackenberg (-0.8) was under pressure a lot in this game, and he struggled against it, only completing 21 percent of his passes for 56 yards. On the rare occasion he was not under pressure, Hackenberg was efficient, completing 75 percent of his passes for 81 yards. While Hackenberg had his struggles under pressure, he also struggled on throws that traveled 10 or more yards downfield, going 3 of 14 for 77 yards on those passes.
–Entering this week, the Nittany Lions had the 39th-worst pass-blocking efficiency versus Power-5 teams, and they were even worse than normal against the Wolverines. Left tackle Paris Palmer (-5.3) had the biggest struggles, as he only played 42 snaps and gave up four total pressures on 24 pass-blocking snaps. Palmer entered the game as the 16th-lowest-graded offensive tackle in college football this season.
— Entering into this week, the Nittany Lions had been able to hang their hats on the defensive line trio of Austin Johnson (-0.6), Anthony Zettel (+0.1) and Carl Nassib (who only played two snaps in this game). Neither Zettel nor Johnson were able to get much going versus the Wolverines’ offensive line, with Zettel getting four pressures and Johnson zero. The loss to injury of Nassib, who currently has PFF’s highest pass-rushing productivity by a 4-3 DE at 19.1 (the second highest is Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah at 15.9), the Penn State pass rush was significantly weaker.
LB Brandon Bell (+2.9)
DT Parker Cothren (+2.4)
FS Malik Golden (+1.7)
CB Grant Haley (+1.3)
SS Troy Apke (+1.2)