Penn State certainly had a series of high points in this game; several players came through at critical moments of the game to help get the Lions' out of jams and spark some momentum for PSU.
Rodney Kinlaw: Kinlaw rolled the odometer over 1300 yards on the season with 143 yards on 21 carries (6.8 YPC) and a long of 19 yards. Kinlaw's performance was reminiscent of Tony Hunt's Outback Bowl against Tennessee last season. The Aggies just didn't seem to want to tackle him.
Offensive Line: Kinlaw, Clark and Royster should treat the offensive linemen to a nice, big Texas breakfast buffet Sunday morning. The offensive line regularly dominated A&M's defensive front, breaking open lanes and sealing off routes for the runners to hit for big pickups. Their efforts were instrumental in PSU rolling up 270 rushing yards on a rushing defense that only allowed 151.8 yards on the ground per game this season.
Daryll Clark: The coaches went for a "change of pace" with backup QB Daryll Clark in on nearly every drive at some point. Paterno said, "We wanted to give them something they hadn't seen from us," and that they did. Clark had six carries, 50 yds (8.3 YPC) and a touchdown. Listen for the Clark chants to get louder in the off-season, but can he pass?
Defensive Front Seven: The front seven did a solid job containing TAMU's three-headed rushing monster, limiting Goodson (65 yards), McGee (41 yards) and Lane (34 yards). Sean Lee in particular was incredible in the game and had wings on his shoes all night. Hats off guys.
Evan Royster: Concern mounted as Rodney Kinlaw went out with a rib injury in the third quarter. However, Royster once again showed his stuff, pounding the ball and ripping off a career-high 38-yard touchdown run. Right guard Mike Lucian deserves a big pay on the back for that run due to his monster lead block which blew open the lane for Royster.
The Low Five
The Lions continued to have some head-scratching moments that helped the Aggies stay in the game, rejecting the premise of PSU fans being able to breathe easy in this game.
Anthony Morelli: The senior quarterback was simply off for most of the evening. Sure, he rolled up 143 yards and a touchdown, but he overshot his receivers consistently all night, hitting only 48% of his passes. The lone passing touchdown to Deon Butler was more a factor of the catch than the throw, and the desperation interception heave had many PSU fans shaking their heads. In the end though, Morelli is 100% in bowl victories, which is a nice feather in his cap.
Third Down Passes: Penn State was 6 for 16 (38%) on third downs. The issues was noton the ground, since Kinlaw, Clark and Royster picked up big first downs consistently all night. The issue was the regular use of the swing pass; third and five and the staff calls a swing pass to Derrick Williams two yards behind the line of scrimmage which gets blown up. This was a regular occurance throughout the game.
Deep Field Goals: Kevin Kelly continued to struggle on 40+ yard field goals. However, this time it may have been his holder Jeremy Boone, who angled the laces to the right. Kelly ended the evening one for two in field goals and three for three in points after; six points is nice, but the extra three would have had fans resting easier during the fourth quarter.
Return Game: The punt and kickoff return games continued their struggles in this one; Penn State just could not get a spark, struggling to get the ball outside the 20-yard line on kickoffs and not knowing when to fair-catch, run or let it go on punts.
The Wideouts: Despite A&M boasting the 106th ranked pass defense, the wideouts seemed to struggle to get open. Granted, Morelli's inaccuracies didn't help, but there were several balls which hit the hands of players and were just dropped. This could have been a banner game for them given the Aggies' secondary weaknesses.
Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for unmatched Alamo Bowl and Penn State football coverage.