Who played well against the Fighting Illini, and who still has some work to do?
Penn State improved to 8-1 on the season and 5-0 in the Big Ten Leaders Division on Saturday with a 10-7 victory against Illinois at Beaver Stadium. Today, we take a look at who played well and who has some work to do as the Nittany Lions prepare to host Nebraska on Nov. 12.
Quarterbacks: Rob Bolden was flat terrible during his drives in the second quarter. The sophomore was 0-4 with a fumble lost, and every time he dropped back to pass, it felt like disaster was right around the corner. Starter Matthew McGloin wasn't much better himself. He completed just 9-24 passes for 98 yards and was picked off once. He did make some very clutch completions on the final drive, however, so the pair escapes failing marks for that. Grade: C-
Backs: Silas Redd carried the team on his back again on Saturday. He racked up 137 yards on 30 carries and scored the game-winning touchdown for the Nittany Lions in the fourth quarter despite the fact the Fighting Illini's defense was keying on him. He has now eclipsed the 100-yard mark in five straight games, the first Penn State back to accomplish that feat since Curtis Enis in 1997. Outside of Redd, though, no back totaled more than three yards for the Lions, so as a unit, this wasn't the best game for the backfield. Grade: B
Receivers: It'd be easy to blame a lot of the struggles in the passing game on the quarterbacks, but the receivers didn't do a whole lot to help. Brandon Moseby-Felder and Justin Brown both dropped key passes late in the fourth quarter to kill a drive and the tight ends continued to disappoint in the passing game. Derek Moye's two catches and drawn pass interference call on the game-winning drive were clutch highlights, though, so the unit gets good marks here despite the struggles. Grade: B-
Offensive Line: This group is by no means great, but once again, it paved the way for the skill players to sink or swim on their own. The Illini did break through for four sacks, but some were coverage sacks for which blame should rest on the shoulders of the receivers, not the line. Grade: B
Defensive Line: After a couple of average weeks, the defensive line was again a disruptive force for the Penn State defense. Devon Still and Jordan Hill racked up 10 tackles each, and combined for a sack (Still's) and 4.5 tackles for loss. Sean Stanley added a big interception and Jack Crawford registered four tackles. Grade: A-
Linebackers: Gerald Hodges was a monster again at his outside backer spot. The junior racked up a whopping 19 tackles, earned a sack, forced a fumble and broke up two passes. He's quickly becoming the heart and soul of the Lions' defensive unit. Nathan Stupar added nine big tackles on the afternoon and Glenn Carson came up with five. Grade: A-
Secondary: Safety Drew Astorino was everywhere for the defense, especially early on when he registered two tackles for loss to help Penn State get off to a good start. D'Anton Lynn came up with an interception and Nick Sukay forced a fumble while the group as a whole held Illinois to 94 yards passing. Grade: A
Special Teams: Anthony Fera's early field goal miss was heavily influenced by the elements. He made up for it by drilling a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give the Lions their first points of the day. Brad Bars' blocked punt set up that field goal, and without him, there's a good chance Penn State would have been a loser in this one. Grade: B