Penn State's Spring Game Report Card
There was not much that could be taken from a rain-soaked Blue White game on Saturday as Penn State wrapped up their spring practice schedule, but let's take what were able to witness in a half of football and see if we can hand out any grades.
With the game being called just two minutes into the second half, there may be some positions receiving an incomplete for the spring game.
Be warned that the weather played a major role in the performance of some of these players so take these grades with that in mind. It was not a day that had weather allowing for a truly fair assessment. For the purposes of these grades we will just be comparing the players at each position against each other, rather than individually because the shortness of the game and the weather conditions do not allow for a proper grading.
With a steady downpour that only got worse as the game went along it was expected to hold back the passing game a bit. Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin have been thought to be the favorites to compete for the starting job according to Joe Paterno. If the spring game was any indication, it would seem that McGloin would have the edge, guiding Penn State's Blue team to all ten points scored in the abbreviated game.
McGloin was 5-for-10 for 109 yards and a touchdown pass though he fumbled a snap early on. Looking at the stats only tells a portion of the story though. Receivers dropped passes from all quarterbacks to see the field, including a beautiful pass by Bolden. Bolden ended his day without a completion, and of course zero passing yards, and an interception but who knows how much the weather affected that.
Bolden receives an average passing grade but even in the rain there were ten completed passes by other quarterbacks, so we can't go too easy on him.
With the passing game being hindered by the rain the focus shifted mostly on the running game in the first half.
Silas Redd and Stephfon Green are expected to be the dynamic duo in the fall but on Saturday the leading rusher was Bradon Beachum. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry and a tie for game-lead in rushing with 24 yards. Beachum was making his return to the field following a long recovery from a torn ACL suffered on a special teams play against Indiana in 2009. Redd also added 24 yards on three more carries than Beachum.
The two sides combined for 96 yards on the ground, with Curtis Dukes chipping in with 15 yards and Green adding 13 more yards. Fullback Michael Zordich had a couple of carries for six yards and one catch and run on a screen pass for 23 yards.
It would have been nice to see what the running game would have done in a full game but the weather just would not allow it. Also keep in mind that the defensive line that the running game was attacking was fairly depleted due to injury.
We'll focus on the Blue team because there is not much of anything to report from the White team, which was comprised mostly of players not expected to be competing for starting jobs in the fall.
Brandon Moseby-Felder caught the lone touchdown pass of the game form McGloin on a 17-yard pass, one of his two catches on the day. No receiver had more than two catches in the game (Alex Butterworth was the other for the White).
“We have to get used to (bad weather),” receiver Justin Brown said in a report filed by The Patriot News. “We’re gonna have to be able to make those catches in games.” Brown had one catch for 19 yards but had a couple of intended passes broken up.
Speedster Devon Smith caught one pass for 36 yards, which set up a score for the Blue. Derek Moye sat out of the game after a recent concussion raised a caution flag on the probable offensive captain.
Between the two sides, here is what can be taken away from the spring game in sloppy conditions and going up against a depleted defensive line. There were two sacks for a total loss of 17 yards, both given up by the White team.
Quarterback Kevin Newsome took off running but was taken down for a loss for one sack and the light contact rules called for an early whistle to credit the Blue defense with another sack so it is almost unfair to be too negative on the offensive line play.
In one half of play the offenses put up 135 passing yards and 96 rushing yards (234 total offensive yards, average of 117 offensive yards for one half in a regular game). For the most part the offensive line fared well, but against a weakened defensive line we'll hold back on the optimistic grading for the time being.
Overall grade: C+
As mentioned in the previous slide detailing the offensive line play, the defense came up with a pair of sacks. Neither of which were anything remotely dazzling but the defensive line gets a mild pass on this day because of the nagging injuries on the line. Pete Massaro, Jack Crawford and Eric Lattimore were all out which left the line as the most depleted position on the field on Saturday.
We'll take it easy on you this time defensive line, but there will plenty to focus on over the summer when camp opens up.
Overall Grade: Incomplete
Freshman linebackers Glenn Carson and Khairi Fortt each recorded a game-high five tackles to lead the defense, and Mike Hull had himself a decent outing with a few tackles and a forced fumble. Fortt had been playing mostly with the first team defense in the spring with Nate Stupar working his way back to being at 100 percent. If Saturday showed anything it was that Fortt has become comfortable playing with the first string.
What you like to see is the linebackers wrapping up the running backs and that is what they did in an abbreviated game.
Overall Grade: B+
An interception on the first play of the game and getting their hands on a number of other balls in the air and the absence of a complete pass by Rob Bolden would seem to suggest that the defensive backs and safeties were on their game on Saturday.
A deep pass by McGloin though and what should have been a wide open pass completion for a first down (intended receiver slipped on the turf) though show that there is still room for improvement.
Stephon Morris (concussion), Nick Sukay (pectoral), and D'Anton Lynn (back) were all sidelined with injuries. Those three players are expected to be starting players in the defensive backfield in 2011 so for the defensive backs we will simply hand out an "Incomplete" for their Blue White game performance.
Overall Grade: Incomplete
As is usually the case with spring games, not much emphasis is placed on the special teams. No rushing the kicker or punter off the snaps leads to no pressure situations on special teams. To follow that pattern special teams returns are essentially non existent.
Here's what you should know though. Evan Lewis took care of the kicking responsibilities, including a short field goal and an extra point for Penn State. There were three other kicking specialists on the roster and Lewis was the only one used for the point opportunities, so he looks to be your favorite to be making kicks in the fall. No judgement can be made on his range as he only kicked an extra point and a short field goal.
Devon Smith was once again used to field punts, although he was not given a chance to take off with the ball. No drops in the downpour though, so he gets a check mark for that.
For now the special teams receives a modest grade despite the lack of activity.
Overall Grade: B-
The game plan was relatively simple for both teams. Quarterbacks rotated each series to get equal playing time to start out the game and there were a few risks taken. The spring game is not known to be a time to break out the trick plays and showcase the top offensive plays and defensive packages so Penn State played it very casual.
A large number of injuries could have played a slight role in the game planning but if fans were expecting to see blitz packages by the defense then they probably are not familiar with spring football.
The most important thing during a spring game is to get as many players a chance to play as possible and to leave the game without any extra injuries. That's exactly how it played out for Penn State during the Blue White game.
Overall Grade: C
The Nittany Lion
Only a small handful of fans braved the weather conditions for Saturday's Blue White game but that did not stop the Nittany Lion from being able to make the most of the situation. The famous mascot decided to come prepared for the weather and received a couple laughs for wearing a flotation device.
Overall Grade: A+