Penn State Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Virginia Game

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2012

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The Penn State Nittany Lions outplayed the Virginia Cavaliers in every conceivable way on Saturday, but they still lost the game 17-16 in heartbreaking fashion.

Kicker Sam Ficken missed a 42-yard field goal as time expired to hand Virginia their second victory of the season. The inaccurate kick was Ficken's fourth miss of the day.

Now, the Nittany Lions will try to pick up the pieces. They are 0-2 entering their Week 3 contest versus Navy. Regardless of their program's current situation, an 0-3 start is inconceivable.

It's one thing to lose, but it's another to play well enough to win and still come up short.

Let's take a look at Penn State's Week 2 loss by grading each starter.


Offensive Backfield

Matt McGloin, QB

Grade: B+

McGloin was 19-of-35 for 197 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's loss, and he didn't throw an interception. All in all, it was another excellent performance from the senior quarterback.

He did miss the end of the second quarter with an elbow injury but eventually relieved freshman Steven Bench of his backup duties early in the third quarter.

McGloin was a major question mark entering the season, but he looks like a different guy so far. He's comfortable, he's poised and Bill O'Brien's system fits his abilities well.


Derek Day, RB

Grade: C+

Michael Zordich, FB

Grade: C

Penn State's backs can be grouped together because Zordich only touched the ball twice. He did provide solid pass protection and a powerful lead blocker in front of Day.

Day was so-so as Bill Belton's replacement in the backfield. He ran the ball 18 times for 47 yards and also caught one pass for 17 more.

The Nittany Lions didn't get any home-run plays from Day, but he's a blue-collar player. He gives maximum effort, and he takes care of the football.


Offensive Line

Donovan Smith, OT

Miles Dieffenbach, OG

Matt Stankiewitch, C

John Urschel, OG

Mike Farrell, OT

Grade: B

An offensive line should be graded as a unit, so that's what I'll stick with here.

Overall, the offensive front played well. Cavaliers linebacker Steve Greer had 15 tackles and two sacks, but he was the only major problem for this group.

They maintained the pocket for McGloin, but their push in the run game could have been better. For a unit that's replacing four starters and working with a new coach, their progress is way ahead of schedule.


Wide Receivers/Tight End

Allen Robinson, WR

Grade: A-

Robinson dropped a few catchable passes, but this was another very good performance from the lanky sophomore. He caught 10 passes for 89 yards, including a diving, 30-yard touchdown reception:

McGloin needs a No. 1 option, and Robinson has proven to be that guy through two games. Expect his production to stay along these lines as long as McGloin is given time to throw.


Shawney Kersey, WR

Grade: C-

You can't knock him for trying, but Kersey just didn't produce much on Saturday. He ended the game with one catch for nine yards.

The Penn State offense likes to mix in several groups at receiver, so Kersey doesn't always stay on the field. His quickness is an asset, but he must polish his hands and route running to be a major factor in O'Brien's system.


Garry Gilliam/Kyle Carter, TE

Grade: B

Gilliam was the starter, but O'Brien's system demands the play of several tight ends. We saw Carter step up in Week 1, and he did so again in Week 2.

Gilliam didn't have a catch, but he's a solid blocker. Carter came in the game and caught four passes. His touchdown in the first quarter started the day's scoring.

Outside of McGloin, Carter has been one of this team's most pleasant surprises this season. He's athletic, and his ability to line up all over the field is tailor-made for O'Brien's philosophy.


Defensive Line

Sean Stanley, DE

Grade: B

Stanley had three tackles, including one for a loss. He was a big part of Penn State's front four, but his failure to sack Michael Rocco keeps him from getting an A here.


Deion Barnes, DE

Grade: A

This redshirt freshman had an impact performance on Saturday.

Barnes registered two tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He was a consistent threat off the edge, making life difficult for Rocco and the Virginia offense.

He has all the physical tools. As he matures, Barnes should be a good one.


Jordan Hill, DT

Grade: A

Honestly, I would have given Hill an A just for this play:

He did have three tackles otherwise, but that interception brought the "wow" factor to the game on Saturday. It was one of four Virginia turnovers, but Hill's interception was arguably the play of the game.


DaQuan Jones, DT

Grade: C+

Jones ate up space and tallied two tackles, but he was mostly nondescript on Saturday.

His main job is to ensure that Hill is free to make plays. That requires him to eat up multiple blockers, and he seems to struggle with that at times.



Michael Mauti, OLB

Grade: A

Mauti led the team with nine tackles. He also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and broke up a pass.

This isn't surprising. When healthy, Mauti is the heart and soul of the Nittany Lions defense. He proved that once again on Saturday.


Glenn Carson, MLB

Grade: B

Carson turned in five tackles on Saturday. He was consistent in the middle of the defense and controlled the Cavaliers' run game for the majority of the matchup.

He's only one piece of the linebacker trio, but his presence in run support is necessary.


Gerald Hodges, OLB

Grade: B+

Hodges brought Mauti's tackling but didn't get involved with any turnovers. He gets his grade because he was the team's second-leading tackler.

Hodges' energy and athleticism make a huge difference on the defensive side of the ball. He's still the team's best NFL draft prospect.


Defensive Backfield

Stephon Morris, CB

Grade: B

Morris played well in coverage and picked up four tackles, including one for a loss. He got beat toward the end of the game on a few occasions, but he turned in a solid effort overall.

The secondary has very little depth, and Morris' performance is necessary on a weekly basis.


Adrian Amos, CB

Grade: B+

Amos is an ideal fit at safety, but for now, he will have to stay at corner. He picked up six tackles on Saturday and continues to excel in run support.

He doesn't have top-end speed, but Amos is a fierce competitor. He continues to be the backbone of Penn State's defensive backfield.


Malcolm Willis, S

Grade: B

I'd like to see Willis improve in pass coverage, but he excels in the box. He picked up five tackles against Virginia, and he provides leadership on the back end of the defense.

Penn State gets beat on medium routes over the middle here and there, and that's Willis' responsibility. He must work on that before Big Ten play begins.


Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, S

Grade: C+

He's very similar to Willis and notched four tackles on Saturday. However, his coverage game is a tick below Willis' at this point.

Obeng-Agyapong plays with a ton of heart, but don't be surprised if Jake Fagnano sees more time as the weeks pass by.



Sam Ficken, K

Grade: F

No reason to spend too much time on this. Ficken is a kicker, and he missed four of his five attempts.

Cut that however you want, but it's bad in every direction. Ficken also had an extra point blocked, and his final miss sealed the Nittany Lions' fate.

Without his missteps, Penn State wins this game. You can't give away 13 points in the kicking game.


Alex Butterworth, P

Grade: B

Butterworth punted the ball three times, averaging 41.7 yards per try. His long was 52 yards, and he managed to plant one kick inside the 20-yard line.

The Nittany Lions need Butterworth to flip field position, and he did a solid job on Saturday. He's inexperienced but doing much better than Ficken at this point.


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