Out with Player Grades and in with Three up, Three down, Inside NU's newest postgame evaluation. Rather than handing out grades to the different contributors, we'll give you three players (or position groups) whose stock went up and three players whose performances were disappointing. Here's the report from Penn State.
Paddy Fisher and Nate Hall
Fisher and Hall were in the backfield all day until the former was sent off for targeting, combining ferocious hits with great open-field tackling. The dynamic LB duo put up 15 total tackles, including 3.5 TFLs and a sack, but the numbers don’t show just how disruptive they were in the running game all day. They also did a great job of ensuring McSorley stayed in the pocket, with his longest carry of the day gaining only 5 yards.
Trent Goens and Joe Gaziano
The defensive ends were also in the backfield for a good portion of the afternoon, though mostly in pass rush situations. Goens and Gaziano combined for 3.5 TFLs while each putting up a sack, and while the two had their dry spells, they came through with some big hits on McSorley.
The Miller Brothers
Alex and Sam close out an all front-seven stock up section, with each contributing mightily to defending against the run, Northwestern’s biggest strength on the day, while also racking up a sack apiece. Northwestern’s defensive line looked stout for most of the game, and these two were at its core.
Honorable mentions: Matt Alviti, Godwin Igwebuike pre-targeting
The offensive line
There’s nothing I can put here that hasn’t already been said. The line allowed 4 sacks, 7 TFLs and 7 QB hits, with many of those coming at the worst possible time, including a holding penalty/sack combination on Northwestern’s only red zone appearance before the game got out of hand. These guys don’t seem to be getting any better, and something has to be done about it.
The line didn’t do him any favors, but Thorson had his own personal moments of horrendous play. After the aforementioned holding penalty and sack, Thorson was picked on a jump ball to the ten yard line on third and goal, a high risk/low reward play that cost Northwestern a shot at points. His receivers didn’t do a great job of getting open, but he often missed them when they were. 19 of 36 for 142 yards and two picks speaks for itself.
For large swaths of the game, McSorley and Penn State were able to pick up ten yards seemingly at will against Northwestern’s off coverage. At times, the pass rush slowed to a virtual halt, which didn’t help them out, but Trae Williams especially got burned multiple times for decent gains on underneath routes, leading up to a missed tackle that garnered Saeed Blacknail a 38-yard gain. It wouldn’t have mattered in this one, but the secondary needs to get a little bit sharper if they want to escape College Park with a win.
Honorable Mentions: Hunter Niswander, wide receivers, the coaching staff