Reviewing Penn State’s Matchup Against Rutgers And A Regular Season Review Before Bowl Season

Reviewing Penn State’s Matchup Against Rutgers And A Regular Season Review Before Bowl Season

Big Ten Standings Penn State 2019

Alright folks, there was not a lot outside of Journey Brown to be excited about in last week’s season finale.

Will Levis was decent as a fill-in for the banged-up Sean Clifford. He only attempted 14 passes as it was clear Penn State’s gameplan here was to run, run, and run even more. We highlighted this as the key to victory last week, but Penn State was just 3-10 on third down. Their failures to convert killed many promising drives and left plenty of points on the field in what was otherwise, a statistically promising game.

Penn State wins in weak Rutgers team

Penn State rushed for 252 yards on 46 attempts, including 108 from quarterback, Will Levis. Penn State’s defense played well on their own end of the field, limiting Rutgers to just two field goals, despite 383 yards of offense and 4.2 yards per rushing attempt. Rutgers didn’t even turnover the ball and they lost by three touchdowns, which seemed really odd. I get that Rutgers wanted to play to their strengths and limit turnovers by playing it safe, but why not attack a little more, knowing you’re outmatched in a ground battle against one of the best rushing offense/defensive teams in the country?

It was truly a weak effort by Rutgers, but if their goal was to cover the spread, they did an outstanding job of it. In the end, it was a casual victory in a game that remained relatively close until the second half, but the send-off for Penn State was not one of glory. It was more of a fade-out. As the clock struck zero, we’re left with a lot of questions. Where will they go from here? Will Sean Clifford and Noah Cain be back for the bowl game? Will we see the same energy in the bowl game that we saw earlier in the season? Only time will tell.

Regular Season Review

The 2019 season was one that fell just shy of the College Football Playoff. Had Penn State beat Ohio State, we’d be talking about their upcoming Big 10 title matchup against Wisconsin. Nevertheless, the season took on a trajectory similar to that of a long field goal, ascending for weeks upon weeks, drifting to the right (Minnesota game) before ultimately tailing off and falling short of the crossbar (Ohio State). It was a season many will remember as a failure but should remember with appreciation and hope.

Penn State opened the season with a show of force against Idaho. Everyone got involved and the hype around the season was justified with an absolutely dominating effort against the Vandals. The Buffalo game was much the same. Pitt was the first real gasp of the year as the Panthers hung around far too long and seemed to make clutch plays throughout. Following the home scare against Pitt, the Maryland Terrapins game was a game that changed our expectations for this team altogether. At the time, Maryland was off to a decent start, crushing both Howard and beating #21 Syracuse by 43 before losing a close one to Temple. Weeks later, we came to realize Maryland was actually terrible and would go on to win just one of their final eight games.

Their next opponent, Purdue, had just lost both their star quarterback and receiver and fell easily to Penn State. Their first test of the season came the following two weeks, as they faced Iowa and Michigan. The Iowa to Michigan stretch was the peak of excitement for this Penn State team, as Penn State went into Kinnick Stadium and ground out a close victory over the defensively gifted Iowa Hawkeyes.

The Michigan game was very similar, as Penn State got out to a 21-0 lead before clinging to a seven-point victory at home. Following a casual victory at Michigan State, where leading running back Noah Cain was injured, Penn State got behind early on the road in Minnesota and couldn’t rally in time. It was a real gut punch for Penn State fans, but there was still a glimmer of hope for a Big 10 title and possibly a playoff spot if the team could pull off the upset in Columbus.

Penn State bounced back the following week, looking very shaky at times as they held on for a victory against a solid Indiana team. By the time the Ohio State game came, Penn State was struggling to regain their rhythm on offense and their form on defense. Noah Cain was still banged up, but after Ohio State extended their lead to 21-0 in the third quarter, Penn State started to gain a little steam until the unexpected injury of Sean Clifford in the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Will Levis rallied the Nittany Lions for 17 straight points, but the Ohio State team was ultimately too much to contain as the game rolled on. Ohio State cruised to victory and Penn State, disappointed and unsure of their quarterback’s future, traveled back to University Park, devastated at the demise of their season.

Final thoughts on the 2019 Penn State regular season

It was a season that began with such promise. Penn State was one of a handful of Dark Horse candidates for the College Football Playoff. Expectations were that the team should end up somewhere between 9-3 and 10-2 and finish second or third in the Big 10. Many expected a top-10 finish and at least a New Year’s Day Bowl appearance. That outcome is still in the cards for Penn State. The biggest truth of 2019 was that Ohio State is just on a different level than the rest of the Big 10.

Penn State has some work to do to get back to the level the team was playing in the mid-1980s. For now, we have a string of recent successful seasons, including a Big 10 title in 2016. There’s a lot to be proud of with what this team has accomplished over the past few seasons, averaging 10.25 wins over the past four seasons. What James Franklin has done over the past six seasons has been nothing short of amazing. He took a team recovering from the biggest college football scandal since SMU in the 1980s and turned them into a perennial top 10 team once again.

Be sure to check out the last Penn State article of the season, coming the week prior to Penn State’s bowl game.