Oct 1, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Northwestern Wildcats at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11 Penn St. overcomes 5 TOs to beat Northwestern

No. 11 Penn State turned over a slippery football five times but its defense didn’t drop the ball in a 17-7 Big Ten win over visiting Northwestern on Saturday in rainy State College, Pa.

Sean Clifford completed 10 of 20 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown for Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten). Nicholas Singleton carried 21 times for 87 yards and Kaytron Allen added 86 yards on 21 attempts.

After each of its takeaways, Northwestern (1-4, 1-1) failed to make a first down against the stingy Penn State defense, which limited the Wildcats to 241 total yards and 13 first downs.

The lone score for the Wildcats came late in the third quarter when Ryan Hilinski threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Gill, cutting the Nittany Lions’ lead in half, 14-7.

But Penn State answered with a drive that produced a 38-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar and the Nittany Lions’ defense held on the rest of the way.

Northwestern had a chance to score early in the fourth quarter. But on fourth-and-goal at the Penn State 1, Hilinski ran into a wall of defenders on a quarterback sneak. It was one of three times in the final period that the Nittany Lions forced the Wildcats to turn the ball over on downs.

Penn State bottled up Evan Hull, the Big Ten leader in all-purpose yards, who finished with 77 yards on 14 touches. Hull entered averaging a combined 181 yards rushing and receiving per game.

Nick Tarburton led the Penn State defense with a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Penn State committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter but the defense got the ball back quickly with a three-and-out and an interception by Ji’Ayir Brown.

Clifford followed Brown’s pick with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brenton Strange who vaulted over a tackler and into the end zone to complete a 60-yard, five-play drive that put Penn State up 7-0.

The Nittany Lions took advantage of another turnover to score their second touchdown. When Hilinski couldn’t control a low shotgun snap, Tarburton recovered to give Penn State possession at the Wildcats’ 45.

After Singleton gained first downs on consecutive plays, the freshman powered into the end zone on a 2-yard run that put Penn State up 14-0.

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Central Michigan 33-14. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11 Penn State puts steady approach up against Northwestern

Penn State and visiting Northwestern return to Big Ten play Saturday at State College, Pa., after differing results against Mid-American Conference foes last week.

While No. 11 Penn State overcame early sluggishness to defeat Central Michigan 33-14, Northwestern sputtered to a 17-14 defeat against visiting Miami (Ohio).

Northwestern (1-3, 1-0 Big Ten) knows it must do its best to disrupt Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, who was 22 of 34 for 217 yards and three touchdowns through the air against Central Michigan, and gained 23 yards rushing with another score.

Nittany Lions coach James Franklin has lauded Clifford, a sixth-year senior, for being “much more even keeled” for Penn State (4-0, 1-0).

“He’s not getting too high when things are good, he’s not getting too low when we’d like a play back,” Franklin said.

Still, Franklin is eyeing opportunities to play freshman quarterback Drew Allar in at least one series per game when feasible, “putting a priority on depth, based on previous experiences, based on what we need to do in 2022,” he said.

Allar completed two of his five passes against Central Michigan for 20 yards.

Northwestern is winless since opening the season by defeating Nebraska 31-28 in Dublin, Ireland, on Aug. 27.

The Wildcats’ latest defeat wasn’t decided until the final 21 seconds Saturday, when Graham Nicholson of Miami (Ohio) connected on a go-ahead, 36-yard field goal to cap a 17-14 road victory for the RedHawks. Northwestern has lost each of its games by one possession.

“For the team, you’ve got to use the frustration as motivation,” Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I mean, I talked to them again about, ‘You had two fourth-quarter turnovers in a one-score game. You can’t do that.’ You can’t have a breakdown at the end of the game (and) … expect to win a one-score game.

“Now, we had ample opportunities early in all three of those games to seize momentum, and we haven’t. That’s something we’ve got to continue to stress. And just keep grinding. I really like this group of guys. I think they’ve got a confidence about them.”

While quarterback Ryan Hilinski passed for 257 yards and had a 1-yard rushing touchdown against Miami (Ohio), the Wildcats are looking for more urgency from their offense. They have averaged just 20.3 points a contest since the season opener.

Northwestern running back Evan Hull leads the nation with an average of 181 all-purpose yards a game, including 92.5 yards on the ground. He’ll be looking to get on track against the Nittany Lions after being limited to 62 yards on 21 carries against Miami (Ohio) with just 10 yards on two receptions.

Franklin sees one key matchup as the Nittany Lions defensive front against Northwestern offensive lineman Peter Skoronski, who is projected as a possible first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

“I think our defensive ends are excited about it,” Franklin said. “This is why you come to a place like Penn State, to compete and play against this type of talent.”

Penn State has a 14-5 advantage in the all-time series.

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Brenton Strange (86) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Penn State, Kaytron Allen wear down Central Michigan

Sean Clifford went 22-of-34 passing for 217 yards and four total touchdowns to lead No. 14 Penn State to a 33-14 home win over Central Michigan on Saturday.

Clifford threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, while Kaytron Allen rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries for Penn State (4-0).

Daniel Richardson was 26-of-45 passing for 235 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in defeat for Central Michigan (1-3), which committed four turnovers and had two touchdowns called back because of penalties.

Central Michigan gained 363 yards to 403 for Penn State but was hampered by eight penalties for 80 yards.

Penn State got off to a great start, taking a 14-0 lead not even nine minutes into the game.

The Nittany Lions took a 7-0 lead with 8:42 remaining in the first quarter on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Clifford to Mitchell Tinsley, then went up 14-0 on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Clifford to Brenton Strange with 6:38 left in the first.

But Central Michigan had an answer in the second quarter.

The Chippewas closed to within 14-7 on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Richardson to Finn Hogan with 12:39 left in the second quarter.

Central Michigan then tied the game at 14-14 with 6:25 remaining in the second after a 14-yard touchdown pass from Richardson to Joel Wilson.

Penn State got back on track with 1:58 to go in the second quarter, taking a 21-14 lead with 1:58 left until halftime on a 14-yard touchdown run by Allen.

With 11:55 left in the third quarter, Penn State took a 27-14 lead on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Clifford to Strange. The extra point was blocked.

The score remained that way until the fourth quarter, when Clifford scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to give Penn State a 33-14 lead with 14:43 remaining after an unsuccessful 2-point pass.

–Field Level Media

Purdue Boilermakers linebacker Clyde Washington (42) and Purdue Boilermakers safety Chris Jefferson (17) tackle Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Tyler Warren (44) during the NCAA football game, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Penn State won 35-31.

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Nittany Lions expect more offense in Ohio matchup

Penn State coach James Franklin expects the Nittany Lions to be better offensively when they host the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday in State College, Pa.

“We’ve got to be more explosive,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

The Nittany Lions (1-0) rallied for a 35-31 win over host Purdue in their Big Ten opener last Thursday. It took a Sean Clifford-to-Keyvone Lee 10-yard touchdown pass with 57 seconds remaining for the Nittany Lions to pull out the victory.

Clifford was 20-for-37 passing for 282 yards with four touchdowns and an interception that Purdue’s Chris Jefferson returned 72 yards to give the Boilermakers a 31-28 lead with 8:39 remaining. Clifford came through late, completing six of seven passes on Penn State’s game-winning drive.

Mitchell Tinsley had seven catches and a score for 84 yards, while Brenton Strange caught two passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.

Clifford threw TD passes of 12, 67, 29 and 10 yards, but the Nittany Lions rushed for just 98 yards on 32 carries, an average of 3.1 just yards. Kaytron Allen rushed for 31 yards on eight carries, with Lee gaining 30 yards on nine carries, and Clifford adding 11 yards and a touchdown on five carries.

“We found a way to get a tough, gritty win on the road,” Franklin said.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats (1-0) are coming off a 41-38 win over visiting Florida Atlantic University.

Ohio gave up 464 yards but held on after nearly squandering a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Kurtis Rourke completed 27 of 34 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns, with James Bostic making six catches for 136 yards and a score. Sieh Bangura rushed for 114 yards on 23 carries.

“It’s a great opportunity for our team and we’re focusing on taking a big step,” Ohio coach Tim Albin said. “The time in between your first game and your second game is when you’re going to make your most improvement. That’s an old coaching cliche, but it’s very true. So, we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Jahan Dotson (5) runs a fourth quarter touchdown as Maryland Terrapins linebacker Ahmad McCullough (19) defends  at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State rides Jahan Dotson’s 3 TDs past Maryland

Jahan Dotson caught three touchdown passes from Sean Clifford as Penn State snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday with a 31-14 victory over visiting Maryland.

Dotson broke the school’s single-game record with 242 receiving yards, catching 11 passes from Clifford, including the touchdowns in the first, third and fourth quarters.

Clifford finished 27 of 47 for 363 yards as the Nittany Lions (6-3, 3-3) bounced back from a rugged stretch in which they dropped three tough games — losses to top-five foes Iowa and Ohio State, sandwiched around the first nine-overtime loss in FBS history.

The Terrapins (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) had snapped a three-game slide last week, but they were not able to ride the momentum into their visit to University Park, Pa.

Dotson opened the scoring midway through the first quarter, as he executed a double-move and Clifford hit him for a 38-yard score.

Maryland got within 7-6 on Challen Faamatau’s 2-yard TD run late in the first half, but Joseph Petrino’s extra-point attempt was wide.

It was still a one-point game midway through the third quarter Dotson struck again, running a nice route up the seam and Clifford found him for a 21-yard scoring strike.

Still, Maryland was game. The Terps drew even on the initial play of the fourth quarter as Taulia Tagovailoa and Corey Dyches connected for a 13-yard touchdown, and the ensuing two-point conversion tied it at 14-14.

Just 61 seconds later, though, Dotson was standing in the end zone again. He faked out the entire Maryland defense by jogging off the snap before he sprinted up the field and snagged Clifford’s pass for an 86-yard touchdown.

The Terps punted on their next two possessions before the Nittany Lions kicked a short field goal — set up by Dotson’s 45-yard catch on third-and-8 — to give Penn State a two-possession advantage, 24-14.

Tagovailoa finished 41 of 57 for 371 yards with a touchdown and a late interception that Penn State’s Ji’Ayir Brown returned 87 yards for a score to punctuate the outcome with 2:39 remaining.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA;  Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Carlos Carriere (83) runs after the catch for a touchdown as Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Donaven McCulley (0) defends during the second half at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland aims to keep No. 22 Penn State reeling

Maryland snapped a three-game losing streak in its last game, and Penn State will attempt to do the same Saturday when the 22nd-ranked Nittany Lions visit College Park, Md.

The Terrapins (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) opened October with lopsided defeats against top-10 foes Iowa and Ohio State before falling at Minnesota. The combined score of the three losses was 151-47. However, the team rebounded with a 38-35 home triumph against Indiana last weekend.

“I’m proud of how our guys fought and stuck together,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said after defeating the Hoosiers. “We continue to challenge them each and every day as coaches, and I feel like they deserved the win.”

Penn State (5-3, 2-3) probably feels like it deserves a win as well, as James Franklin’s squad has endured a difficult month of its own.

Quarterback Sean Clifford was injured during a top-five showdown against Iowa on Oct. 9, and the team collapsed without him in an eventual 23-20 defeat.

In its next contest, Penn State became the first team in FBS history to lose a nine-overtime game, falling to Illinois 20-18 in the marathon affair. And then came a challenging road date at Ohio State, which handed the Nittany Lions a 33-24 setback.

“Looking at the team, we gotta find a way to win some of these tough games and that’s through a lot of different things,” Franklin said. “There was enough things last week in that game (against Ohio State) to build on.”

Clifford was sharp against the Buckeyes, throwing for 361 yards and a touchdown on 35-of-52 passing. Jahan Dotson, one of the most electric receivers in the nation, contributed 11 receptions for 127 yards in the hard-fought defeat.

“I thought we were more physical, broke some tackles, made some people miss — things like that,” Franklin said. “We’ve got to continue to build on it.”

Maryland, meanwhile, is coming off the win against Indiana in which Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns. Carlos Carriere grabbed eight passes for 134 yards and two scores, and Challen Faamatau rushed for a pair of touchdowns.

“It just feels good to win,” Tagovailoa said. “The stats, and all that stuff, obviously it comes with it.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Terps rank 19th nationally in sacks with 23 – their highest figure through eight games since 2015. The Nittany Lions boast one of the nation’s top pass defenses, as they are eighth in the country in pass efficiency rating (103.56).

Penn State had won nine of the previous 10 meetings in the series before falling to visiting Maryland last year, 35-19. Clifford (340 passing yards, three TDs) and Dotson (nine catches, 123 yards, TD) enjoyed big performances in that one, while Tagovailoa led the Terps with 282 passing yards and three TDs, including two to Rakim Jarrett (five catches, 144 yards).

Both teams will need to stay focused despite looming showdowns with top-10 opponents next week. Penn State hosts No. 9 Michigan, while Maryland visits No. 5 Michigan State.

–Field Level Media