Trying to keep its momentum going after a 2-0 start, Penn State welcomed Auburn to Happy Valley on Saturday night in front of a White Out crowd.
The defense once again found a way to make big plays when it mattered most, containing dual-threat quarterback Bo Nix.
Here’s how our staff graded Penn State’s White Out win against the Tigers.
Offense: A- | Seth Engle
Right from the gate, Penn State’s offense had a different spirit than in the first two games of the season.
Sure, a 44-point performance against Ball State is no simple feat, but the comfortability of Sean Clifford on Saturday is what set the offense apart from other showings.
One reason Clifford may have been so comfortable behind the line of scrimmage is because his offensive line protected him like his life was on the line all game.
Penn State’s offensive line was so good that it wasn’t until just over a minute left in the fourth quarter that Auburn got to Clifford for a sack.
Clifford showed poise and patience in the pocket he hasn’t shown much in his college career, connecting on 28 of 32 pass attempts for 280 yards and two touchdowns.
Mike Yurcich was a wizard in terms of creativity with his play calls, involving all three tight ends over the course of the Nittany Lions win.
A Jahan Dotson pass play to Tyler Warren stands out as one of the most creative plays Penn State has called since Joe Moorhead’s tenure as offensive coordinator.
The only thing holding back the Nittany Lions from earning a game grade of A or higher was the lackluster play of the running backs.
Sure, Clifford was given the keys to throw the ball almost exclusively rather than hand it off, as he did heavily against Ball State.
But with 19 rushing attempts and the offensive line looking as strong as ever, there isn’t much of an excuse for Noah Cain to put up a poor performance on the ground.
Nonetheless, Penn State’s offense looked great Saturday night.
Defense: B | Max Ralph
Penn State’s defense had a tough, tough task in front of it, and it did a very good job for most of the day.
The Auburn running backs gave the Nittany Lions all they could handle, rushing for nearly 200 yards on the day. They were bound to break at some point, and a pair of long drives capped by rushing touchdowns proved that point.
However, the offense had the defense’s back, and defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s unit did its job very well for the rest of the game.
The pass rush was in Bo Nix’s face all game even without a sack, and Penn State held Nix to just 185 passing yards and nearly intercepted him on numerous occasions.
Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter’s big days on the ground tired out the unit at times, and a few missed tackles and blown coverages keep the defense from earning an A, but it was overall a very solid performance in the White Out.
Special teams: A | Alexis Yoder
Jordan Stout led Penn State’s special teams to another solid performance on Saturday against Auburn.
The redshirt senior punted four times for 200 total yards, his longest going for 58 yards while not allowing a kickoff return from the Tigers.
The Nittany Lions’ kick and punt returners turned in exceptional numbers as well.
Jahan Dotson returned one punt for 16 yards while Devyn Ford and John Lovett each returned a kickoff for 17 and 15 yards, respectively.
Without attempting a field goal or missing any point-after attempts, the special teams did their jobs against the Tigers.
Coaching: A | Justin Morganstein
Penn State pulled out all of the tricks on Saturday night and came up with a creative game plan against the Tigers.
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich got everybody involved on Saturday night, but made sure that the Nittany Lions’ primary playmaker Jahan Dotson, got plenty of touches.
But he also utilized the tight ends in a big way as Brenton Strange and Tyler Warren both found their way into the end zone.
Brent Pry’s defense came up in big spots once again and found a way to bend-not-break, just as it had in the first two weeks.
The group got the big stop it needed to and played smart football toward the end of the game.
The correct adjustments were made at halftime and Penn State seemed energized and ready to go for the final two frames.
MORE FOOTBALL COVERAGE