I don't need to re-hash everything that has been said across the site before diving right into the grades this week.
Joe Licata's performance on Saturday was very much a product of the offensive line's play. The Bulls were regularly backed into 2nd and 3rd-and-long situations which allowed the Penn State defense to be more aggressive. As a result, Licata was sacked six times and was forced to throw under duress. However, on the two scoring drives where the offensive line only committed one penalty, Licata looked sharp and the offense benefited.
On the two scoring drives Licata was 12-of-13 for 129 yards and the two touchdowns, otherwise he was 12-of-22 for 76 yards and an interception. The lack of production outside of the two scoring drives is what hurts Licata's overall grade. However, it wasn't entirely his fault because the offensive line did him no favors.
Running Backs: B+
Anthone Taylor once again was solid, showing good pad level and burst in-between the tackles against the toughest defensive line he'll face all season. Taylor finished with 93 yards on 18 carries, averaging over 5 yards per carry against one of the top defensive lines in the B1G. Due to the offensive line being penalized so often, the UB offense was regularly put in 3rd-and-long situations where running the ball wasn't feasible and Taylor suffered. Taylor could have easily broken the 100 yard mark if UB was in more favorable down-and-distance situations.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C+
After a big first week from the tight ends, Mason Schreck and Matt Weiser combined for only 3 catches for 20 yards. The rest of the receiving corps was hampered by Joe Licata being forced to throw under duress, so many of the completions were shorter on the non-scoring drives. The real standouts from the group were Ron Willoughby and Marcus McGill who combined for 12 receptions and 125 yards and the two UB touchdowns. Willoughby was Licata's go-to target when the Bulls were starting to build offensive momentum. While McGill caught several tough balls and used his size (6-1 222) to his advantage to punish an opposing defensive back.
Offensive Line: F
Everyone already knows how brutal of a game the line had, so its not worth beating a dead horse here. The biggest positives to take away are Taylor's 5.2 YPC, and the fact that UB won't see a defensive line like Penn State's again.
Defensive Line: B
The UB defense was led at the point of attack by the linemen and they more than held their own against the Penn State offense. Even though the Penn State offensive line is much maligned, they are still bigger and better athletes than linemen on non-power 5 lines. So, the UB defensive line held up well limiting starting running back Akeel Lynch to only 46 yards on 19 carries. The biggest knocks against the line was the lack of pressure on Christian Hackenberg, and the 115 yards of rushing that was given up to freshman Saquon Barkley.
Starting linebackers Okezie Alozie, Brandon Berry and Nick Gilbo were perhaps the most productive trio on the entire defense. Alozie and Berry had 7 tackles each, while Gilbo had 6 of his own. The linebackers were also the group to consistently make plays in the backfield with Gilbo and Berry accounting for the 3 tackles for loss that the defense had on the day.
Defensive Backs: A-
The defensive backs again stepped up big-time to hold Christian Hackenberg to only 128 yards of passing and a lone touchdown. With Marqus Baker and Boise Ross leading the way at cornerback, the defensive backs smothered the Penn State receivers, forcing Hackenberg to make tougher throws, resulting in more incompletions. Andrews Dadeboe also returned to the lineup at safety after missing the season opener against Albany due to injury. Dadeboe played well and looks the part with Ryan Williamson at the other safety position. There isn't much to complain about with this group, and that much is excellent news.
Special Teams: C-
Adam Mitcheson shanked his only field goal attempt, but it was from nearly 50 yards away and the conditions were not at all favorable. The biggest problem was the two big returns that Penn State had with a 58 yard kickoff return to open the game and a 58 yard punt return to set up a touchdown. In fact, if it weren't for Tyler Grassman making a diving tackle, the punt return would have went for 6.
The coaches did the best that they could under the circumstances that their offensive line put them in, but there is still plenty of reason to be encouraged by the coaching staff, particularly on defense. Brian Borland has done an excellent job thus far in the retooling of the UB defense, and it showed when his unit held PSU scoreless for nearly the entire first half. On offense, when the team wasn't shooting itself in the foot they were moving the ball efficiently and Joe Licata was beginning to pick apart the PSU defense. It wasn't the prettiest game by any means, but it's only the regime's second game together and patience is key.