Nov 19, 2022; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) throws the ball during the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11 Penn State, Michigan State duel for Land Grant Trophy

With its eyes on a New Year’s Day bowl game, No. 11 Penn State wraps up its regular season Saturday when it welcomes Michigan State to University Park, Pa.

The Nittany Lions (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) are locked into third place in the Big Ten East, as the team cannot catch unbeaten rivals Ohio State and Michigan and cannot be caught by the other four teams, a group that includes disappointing Michigan State (5-6, 3-5).

Penn State has won its last three games by a combined margin of 130-24. Coach James Franklin earned his 100th career victory last weekend with a 55-10 romp over Rutgers and feels great about his team’s vibe with the regular season winding down.

“I do think we’ve got good energy. I do think we’ve got good mojo about us right now,” Franklin said. “It’s late in the season. It’s a long season, and there’s times where late in the season can be challenging and a grind on everybody. And it just doesn’t feel like that. Even with the bumps and bruises we’ve got, and we’ve got a bunch of them, the energy’s really good.”

Sean Clifford threw a touchdown and ran for another against Rutgers, while Penn State also scored on a kickoff return and twice more on fumble returns in a dominant overall performance. Now the Nittany Lions will have to avoid looking past the Spartans while remaining focused despite the potential distraction of Senior Day festivities.

“It’s totally fine and acceptable to recognize there are going to be some emotions that go with (Senior Day),” Franklin said. “You try to channel as much as you can.”

Another area of concern for Penn State this weekend will be the absence of top wide receiver Parker Washington (46 catches, 611 yards, two TDs), who is out for the season with an undisclosed injury. In his place, Clifford likely will continue to target Mitchell Tinsley, who posted team highs of five catches and 63 yards against the Scarlet Knights.

Michigan State is coming off a 39-31 double-overtime home loss to Indiana, which entered with a 1-6 conference record. The Spartans could not stop the Hoosiers’ rushing attack (44 carries, 257 yards, four TDs) and lost despite Indiana quarterback Dexter Williams II only completing two passes.

“We’re not gonna cry about it. We haven’t done that yet. We’re not gonna make excuses,” Spartans coach Mel Tucker said. “We’ve got to get it fixed. And one of the most important (parts) is what you do next. … It’s either do that or just quit. We’re not just gonna pack it in.”

Payton Thorne threw two touchdowns for Michigan State, while Elijah Collins ran for 107 yards and two scores. Jalen Berger (21 carries, 119 yards) and Keon Coleman (eight catches, 107 yards, TD) were two other bright spots for the Spartans’ offense.

Michigan State leads the all-time series with Penn State 18-17-1, including a 30-27 win last season. The winner of this annual matchup receives the Land Grant Trophy.

“Obviously we have a lot to play for this week,” Tucker said. “We have a trophy game vs. Penn State, an opportunity to play a top-10 team on the road in a very hostile environment. … And obviously, it’s the next game. And it’s the last regular-season game, guaranteed opportunity for us (to become bowl-eligible). So it’s huge.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (left) talks with Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano before the game at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11 Penn State crushes Rutgers, 55-10

Kobe King and Ji’Ayir Brown scored touchdowns off fumble recoveries and No. 11 Penn State scored 48 unanswered points and rolled to a 55-10 victory over host Rutgers on Saturday in Piscataway, N.J.

Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) won its third straight as its defense continued to dominate, getting 15 tackles for loss and four sacks en route to its 16th straight win over Rutgers and 31st in 33 all-time meetings.

The Nittany Lions have 17 sacks during their winning streak.

The first fumble occurred late in the first quarter after Penn State trailed 10-7. On second-and-11, cornerback Marquis Wilson jarred the ball loose from wideout Johnny Langan, allowing King to easily recover and score from 14 yards out for a 14-10 lead.

The second fumble occurred in the opening minute of the second half on third-and-10. With Rutgers in the red zone, quarterback Gavin Wimsatt was strip-sacked and Brown easily recovered and scored from 70 yards out to make it 35-10.

Nicholas Singleton had a 100-yard kickoff return for Penn State’s first TD.

Kaytron Allen ran 11 times for 117 yards, including a 59-yard gain that set up his 8-yard TD run in the third quarter as the Nittany Lions outgained Rutgers 237-32 on the ground.

Sean Clifford completed 17-of-26 passes for 157 yards, including a 10-yard TD to Tyler Warren. He also had a 14-yard rushing TD late in the first half. Backup quarterback Drew Allar played the second half and also scored on a 1-yard TD in the fourth.

Wimsatt was 10 of 29 for 122 yards as Rutgers (4-7, 1-7) lost its fourth straight and is no longer bowl-eligible. The Scarlet Knights have been outscored 166-48 during the skid.

After Singleton’s kickoff return with 7:54 remaining, Aron Cruickshank set up Jones’ 4-yard TD with a 67-yard kickoff return but Penn State responded for a 14-10 lead on King’s fumble recovery in the final minute of the first.

The Nittany Lions held a 28-10 lead by halftime after Clifford found Warren and scored on a 14-yard run with 63 seconds remaining.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) looks to throw a pass during a warm up prior to the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State uses dominant ground game to blank Maryland

Freshman Nicholas Singleton ran for 122 yards and two long touchdowns on 11 carries as No. 14 Penn State walloped visiting Maryland 30-0 on Saturday in University Park, Pa.

Fellow freshman Kaytron Allen added 73 yards on 16 rushes as Penn State (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) beat the Terrapins for the seventh time in their past eight meetings.

Penn State made life miserable for Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, sacking him seven times and causing him to finish 11-of-22 passing for 74 yards.

Roman Hemby managed 68 rushing yards for Maryland (6-4, 3-4), which has dropped two in a row.

Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford went 12 for 23 for 139 yards and one touchdown. A 3-yarder to tight end Brenton Strange opened the scoring.

Penn State faced a fourth-and-1 at the Maryland 45-yard-line, and Singleton found an open lane for an easy touchdown sprint with 4:55 left in the first quarter. History repeated two drives later, when Singleton took another fourth-and-1 carry and powered ahead for a 27-yard touchdown 11:37 before halftime.

The Terrapins tried a fourth-down conversion and came up short, and the Nittany Lions turned it into a 50-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar. Maryland then went three-and-out, allowing Penn State to drive 48 yards in 1:09 to squeeze in a 46-yard field goal and make the score 27-0 by halftime.

Maryland ran 27 plays in the first half and gained 27 yards. The Terps went 1-for-7 on third downs in the half.

Pinegar’s 21-yard field goal in the third quarter represented the only points in the second half, and up by 30, Penn State subbed in freshman Drew Allar at quarterback for most of the second half.

Maryland backup quarterback Billy Edwards Jr. needed to be helped off the field due to a lower-body injury during the fourth quarter.

The Terrapins were blanked for the first time since 2019 — when Penn State beat them 59-0.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) drops back in the pocket during the fourth quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium. Ohio State defeated Penn State 44-31. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

No. 15 Penn State tries to regroup against Indiana

When last season’s College Football Playoff rankings rolled out for the first time, Penn State was nowhere to be found.

But that’s not the case this year.

Penn State was ranked 15th by the CFP selection committee, and it will look to show that it’s worthy of that ranking when it meets Indiana on Saturday in Bloomington, Ind.

In order to do that, PSU is going to have to get back to its winning ways.

After winning five straight games to open the season, the Nittany Lions (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) have lost two of their last three following a 44-31 setback against Ohio State last Saturday.

Penn State trailed just 16-14 after three quarters, but the Buckeyes broke out for 28 points in the fourth. Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford completed 32 of 47 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted three times. Receiver Parker Washington was also impressive, hauling in 11 receptions for 179 yards and a score.

Clifford has thrown for 1,816 yards and 16 TDs this season. However, the recent losses to conference opponents have made Penn State coach James Franklin consider mixing things up under center, and he could opt to start true freshman Drew Allar at quarterback against Indiana (3-5, 1-4).

“For us, we’re gonna look at who gives us the best chance to be 1-0 this week and go from there. And whoever that is based on this week’s practice and preparation, we’ll go with,” Franklin said. “That’s really kind of how it’s been all year long.”

Allar has only appeared in six games, throwing for 209 yards and two touchdowns on 18-for-31 passing.

The Hoosiers certainly wouldn’t be opposed to facing a quarterback with less experience, though, as they’re in serious need of a spark after falling 24-17 at Rutgers on Oct. 22 to drop their fifth consecutive game.

Indiana captured an early 14-0 lead, but gave up 24 unanswered points before Charles Campbell kicked a 39-yard field goal with 1:18 left in the fourth to pull within seven. Connor Bazelak completed 24 of 42 passes for 210 yards and an interception while adding a rushing touchdown.

Leading receiver Cam Camper (46 receptions, 569 yards, two TDs) tore his ACL in the first half of the meeting with the Scarlet Knights and will miss the rest of the season, making matters worse for the Hoosiers.

If there is any positive heading into Saturday, it’s that Indiana should be well rested after regrouping during its bye week.

“The thing I focused on was rehab, reps and rest. You had guys in different categories,” Hoosiers coach Tom Allen said. “Some guys needed to rehab injuries. Some guys needed to just flat-out rest, didn’t practice them at all, some of our older guys that got a lot of snaps.

“A lot of guys got a lot of good reps. Did a younger guys scrimmage on Wednesday. Some live reps, had some fun with that. … A chance to be able to do some positive things.”

Penn State has dominated the all-time series, winning 23 of the 25 meetings between the teams. Indiana last won on Oct. 24, 2020, upsetting the then-No. 8 Nittany Lions in Bloomington.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover (8) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Ohio State pours it on late to beat No. 13 Penn State

No. 2 Ohio State racked up 28 points in the fourth quarter, including two touchdown runs by TreVeyon Henderson, to defeat No. 13 Penn State 44-31 in State College, Pa., on Saturday afternoon.

After Kaytron Allen scored from a yard out on fourth down to give Penn State (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) a 21-16 lead with 9:26 left in the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes moved 75 yards in three plays, capped by a 41-yard touchdown run by Henderson to put Ohio State (8-0, 5-0) ahead for good at 23-21.

On Penn State’s next series, J.T. Tuimoloau sacked and stripped Sean Clifford at the Nittany Lions’ 24. C.J. Stroud threw a 24-yard TD to Cade Stover on the next snap to make it 30-21 before Penn State responded with a 44-yaard field goal by Jake Pinegar to get within 30-24.

Henderson ran for a 7-yard score and Tuimoloau intercepted Clifford and returned it 14 yards to make it 44-24 with 2:42 to play, giving the Buckeyes four touchdowns in a 6:09 span.

The Nittany Lions got a 5-yard TD catch from Allen with 1:12 left.

Tuimoloau finished with a fumble recovery, two interceptions, a sack and tipped ball that led to an interception.

Stroud connected on 26 of 33 passes for 354 yards and a touchdown. Marvin Harrison Jr. had 10 catches for 185 yards.

Clifford was 32 for 47 for 371 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions while Parker Washington had 11 catches for 179 yards and a score.

Penn State led 14-13 at the half despite a horrible start for Clifford, who threw interceptions on his first two possessions. The Buckeyes converted the turnovers into a 10-0 lead on a 38-yard field goal by Noah Ruggles and 4-yard run by Miyan Williams.

The Nittany Lions responded with 58-yard touchdown catch by Washington early in the second quarter. Penn State took a 14-10 lead at 6:50 on a 23-yard reception by KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

A Ruggles field goal of 37 yards made it 14-13.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) throws during the third quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Ohio State vows improvement vs. No. 13 Penn State

Ohio State got away with a rare display of ineffectiveness in the red zone at home to beat Iowa last week, but the No. 2 Buckeyes know the same will not work on the road against No. 13 Penn State on Saturday at State College, Pa.

The Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) had 27 touchdowns and two field goals in 29 trips to the red zone before playing the Hawkeyes. While they kept the streak alive to go 7-for-7 in the red zone against Iowa, it was not in the manner expected during the 54-10 victory.

In the first half, Ohio State settled for four red-zone field goals after starting each drive inside the Iowa 35.

“I would say all of the drives that ended in field goals, we were obviously upset with,” Ohio State receiver Emeka Egbuka said. “So that’s definitely not the standard that we hold ourselves to week in and week out.”

Unlike Iowa, with its anemic offense, Penn State (6-1, 3-1) could make the Buckeyes pay. Sixth-year Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford rebounded from a subpar game, and an injured shoulder in the 41-17 loss to Michigan on Oct. 15, to go 23 of 31 for 295 yards and four touchdowns in the 45-17 victory over Minnesota last week.

“He is a veteran, he’s very smart. He’s good at reading what you’re doing,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “The receivers, they’re skillful. They can go up and win a lot of 50-50 balls. … I just think that whole operation will be a challenge for us.”

In turn, the Nittany Lions will present a challenge for Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who leads the nation’s second-best scoring offense at 49.6 points per game (Tennessee is first at 50.1). Stroud threw four touchdowns passes, three in the second half, against Iowa to give him 28 for the season, although he has thrown an interception in four straight games.

“Stroud makes it go,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “He throws on the run as well as from the pocket. He’s leading the Heisman race for a reason.”

The Penn State pass defense ranks third in the nation in completion percentage (50.7), allowing six TDs with seven interceptions. However, the Nittany Lions rank 79th in passing yards allowed (232.9).

Defense has not been a concern for the Buckeyes, who rank second in total defense (239.9 yards per game), third in passing defense (149.0), fifth in scoring (14.8 points) and eighth in rushing defense (90.9 yards).

Against the Hawkeyes they had three fumble recoveries, three interceptions and five sacks.

“It’s an arc. It’s definitely trended up and continues to trend up. It’s my job to keep that going. You can’t stay the same,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, it’s a habit. That’s Aristotle, I think. Not Jim Knowles.”

Ohio State has won five straight in the series, but the Nittany Lions will rely on the home crowd to pull the upset. The Buckeyes were 38-25 winners at State College two years ago, but that game was played in an empty Beaver Stadium because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve got to start fast on offense,” Franklin said. “That’s in practice. That’s in jog-throughs and obviously in games.”

This will be the first day game in the series at Penn State since 2009 and the Nittany Lions’ first noon start at home vs. the Buckeyes since 2001.

— Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2022; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  Penn State Nittany Lions running back Nicholas Singleton (10) rushes in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 16 Penn State takes on Minnesota, looks to bounce back

No. 16 Penn State will aim to regain its footing after being run over in its most recent outing when it hosts Big Ten rival Minnesota on Saturday night in State College, Pa.

The Nittany Lions (5-1, 2-1) tumbled six spots in The Associated Press Top 25 poll after surrendering 418 yards rushing in a 41-17 setback to then-No. 5 Michigan last Saturday.

Penn State will bid to tie up loose ends this Saturday during its annual “White Out” game.

As for whether Nittany Lions starting quarterback Sean Clifford will be under center on Saturday remains to be seen. Clifford exited last week’s game late in the third quarter due to an undisclosed injury, prompting freshman Drew Allar to oversee the team’s last two offensive series.

“As you guys know, unless it’s a season-ending injury, I typically don’t announce that,” coach James Franklin said Tuesday of Clifford’s health status. “… Nothing has changed with the plan or the model at this stage.”

Franklin was blunt when asked about calls for Allar to get the start against Minnesota.

“No. 1, that’s the wrong message. That’s the wrong signal,” Franklin said. “Sean has earned the right to be on the field.”

Clifford threw for 340 yards and a touchdown in Penn State’s last meeting with Minnesota but was intercepted three times in a 31-26 loss on Nov. 9, 2019.

The Nittany Lions’ Nicholas Singleton is averaging a robust 7.0 yards per carry. He leads the team in rushing yards (482) and rushing touchdowns (five). Kaytron Allen posted his fourth rushing touchdown of the season last week.

Like Penn State, Minnesota (4-2, 1-2) is bidding to get back on its feet. The Golden Gophers won their first four games by a combined 183-24 score before dropping a 20-10 decision to Purdue on Oct. 1 and falling 26-14 at then-No. 24 Illinois last Saturday.

Also like Penn State, Minnesota has injury concerns.

Starting quarterback Tanner Morgan sustained a head injury against the Fighting Illini, although coach P.J. Fleck isn’t ruling him out vs. the Nittany Lions.

Fleck, on Monday, said that decision will be made by the team’s medical staff.

“That stuff is out of my hands,” Fleck said. “I just know that he appreciates all the prayers, thoughts, support and text messages from everybody. I know we do, as well, as a team. … But he’s in our medical care, under that umbrella right now. He’s doing very well.”

If Morgan is unable to play, the Golden Gophers will turn to either junior Cole Kramer or sophomore Athan Kaliakmanis.

“I like them both,” Fleck said. “Cole’s got a lot more experience, but when you look at Athan, he’s really talented. It’s just what will he be able to process, bring all in, go out there and execute? Those are the decisions we’ll make as we keep going forward. But I’ll have confidence in whoever is out there, that’s for sure.”

Minnesota has relied heavily on Mohamed Ibrahim, who is averaging 138.8 yards rushing per game and has run for at least 100 yards in 14 consecutive games.

–Field Level Media

Oct 1, 2022; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum (2) in action against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Michigan hosts No. 10 Penn State in Big Ten showdown

Jim Harbaugh cannot downplay the excitement surrounding the Penn State-Michigan Top 10 showdown in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

“Big, big, big game,” the Wolverines coach said during his Monday press conference. “If anybody was watching football yesterday on television, the pro games, seems like every commercial break there was an advertisement for the Michigan-Penn State game.

“So if anybody wasn’t realizing that this was a big game, there were constant reminders yesterday.”

The game features Big Ten powerhouses, two of the 15 remaining undefeated FBS teams. It marks the first time since 1997 that both the fifth-ranked Wolverines and 10th-ranked Nittany Lions have been in the Top 10 at the time of the game.

Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) is coming off a 31-10 road victory over Indiana. The game was tied at halftime but the Wolverines outscored the Hoosiers 21-0 in the second half.

“If you are going to reach the promised land, you need those unique games where the team has showed what it’s capable of doing,” Harbaugh said. “Defining moments in the second half of a ballgame.

“There’s a lot to keep us humble and things that we have to improve on. But it did also give us a glimpse of what we can do.”

Quarterback J.J. McCarthy had his best statistical outing since being named the starter after the second game of the season. He passed for a career-best 304 yards and three touchdowns, two to Cornelius Johnson.

“He’s shown no signs of going out there and being timid,” Harbaugh said in a radio interview. “He’s playing his game. Which is exactly what we want him to do. Keep being him and his preparation has been right on the mark.”

Blake Corum continues what has become a Heisman Trophy push with 124 rushing yards and his 11th touchdown of the season. The defense recorded seven sacks, increasing its season total to 22.

That pass rush becomes more fearsome when Michigan gets the lead.

“They’ve done a good job of making people one dimensional,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “People have gotten away from the run game because they’ve gotten down by too many points.”

The Wolverines’ pass rushers will be chasing a familiar foe. Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford passed for 205 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 45 yards in last season’s meeting, when Michigan prevailed 21-17. This season, Clifford has completed 62 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and only two interceptions.

He passed for just 140 yards against Northwestern last Saturday as the defense carried the team to a 17-7 victory. The Nittany Lions (5-0, 2-0) held Northwestern to 31 rushing yards on 28 carries. Penn State has held four of its five opponents under 100 rushing yards, allowing 79.6 yards per game.

It will be tested by Corum on Saturday. Penn State will counter with a two-pronged rushing attack. Nicholas Singelton is averaging 7.3 yards a carry (with five TDs), while Kaytron Allen has averaged 5.3 yards and has three touchdowns. Clifford has four rushing touchdowns this season.

Michigan leads the all-time series between the schools 15-10. If the Wolverines can add to that win total, they have a good chance of being undefeated entering their last two games against Illinois (No. 24) and Ohio State (No. 2).

“It’s going to be a challenge.,” Franklin said. “This is why you come to a place like Penn State, to play in a game like this.”

–Field Level Media

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