NU: Report Card

Who was scary good and who was frighteningly bad as the Lions beat Northwestern in a Halloween tilt in Evanston.

Ugly is usually the order of the day on Halloween, where revelers don costumes meant to frighten others. So when Penn State took on Northwestern in an Oct. 31 showdown here Saturday night, it probably should not have been too surprising that the entire affair was something less than pretty.

From a sparse crowd to key mistakes by both teams to a score that was a bit too … well, scary … for the Nittany Nation until their team finally seized control in the fourth quarter, nothing was easy on the eyes.

Here is how we graded the action.

OVERALL: We're all about bottom lines here at the Report Card. And the bottom line in this game was a 34-13 win for Penn State. The offense and defense both got it done when it mattered most.
Grade: B

OFFENSE: Quarterback Daryll Clark showed a cool hand in leading the Nittany Lions through a spotty first half. Though they had trouble moving the ball early, they did not commit any turnovers. That kept the game close until the offense exploded in the fourth quarter.
Grade: B

DEFENSE: NU quarterback Mike Kafka gave the Lions fits early, and it was too bad he went down with a leg injury that knocked him out of the game. Would State have been as dominant in the final two-plus quarters had he remained healthy? We'll never know that. But credit the PSU defenders for clamping down on the Wildcats when Kafka left the game.
Grade: B-

SPECIAL TEAMS: Some good (place-kicking, kickoff returns) but more bad (illegal substitution on a punt return and a blown contain on a kick coverage). The inconsistency of the special teams remains troubling.
Grade: C

COACHING: Using the passing game to open things up and then dropping the hammer with the running game worked for the offense. Also, Tom Bradley made good adjustments after the Wildcats moved the ball methodically in the first quarter and a half.
Grade: B

INTANGIBLES: Even when things were tight, we never got the sense the Lions were about to panic. That's the sign of a good team.
Grade: B+

OTHER GUY: Outgunned athletically, Northwestern did a good job of keeping the game close, even when it's top QB was knocked out. PSU was just too much to handle in the end.
Grade: C

OFFICIALS: We're still not sure about that late-hit flag on Sean Lee. Overall, though, the zebras seemed to do good work.
Grade: B-

CROWD: From PSU's standpoint, a great turnout. From NU's standpoint, a pathetic showing. The Wildcats deserve better.
Grade: F

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