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Unforced Errors Cost Penn State Football In 31-26 Defeat To Minnesota

No. 4 Penn State football’s unbeaten run came to a heartbreaking end against No. 17 Minnesota, and unforced errors were at the heart of why the Nittany Lions eventually came up short.

Whether it was Sean Clifford’s three interceptions, missed assignments in pass coverage, or missed tackles, the Nittany Lions’ performance was riddled with mistakes. As James Franklin noted in his postgame press conference, even the best teams will struggle to win with that many mistakes.

Beyond the surface-level assessment of those mistakes, however, Penn State didn’t play with the imperativeness teams need in hostile road environments. He was critical of the team not having a sense of urgency when quickly getting up to the line of scrimmage and running plays, and he also noted the team’s defensive breakdowns in the passing game, which were part of why Rashod Bateman had a monster game with 203 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven grabs.

Elsewhere, Clifford’s performance was undoubtedly the worst of his time as Penn State’s starting quarterback. He doubled his interception total for the season on Saturday afternoon with three turnovers — two of which were made by star defensive back Antoine Winfield.

Winfield beat Justin Shorter to a deep ball in the first quarter on his first pick of the day. Shorter, who’s 6’4″ and 215 pounds, has a clear size advantage over Winfield (5’10”, 205 pounds). The ball was underthrown a tad, but Shorter should’ve had some shot at making a play on the ball.

The quarterback’s second pick was actually reminiscent of the first touchdown pass he threw to Pat Freiermuth against Michigan State — only with a different target and end result. He tried to loft the ball up to KJ Hamler, but Winfield was first to react and gave possession back to the Gophers. Hamler had a step on Jordan Howden at the end of the game, but Clifford’s pass was behind the wideout.

“It’s one of those things where you can’t help but blame yourself — especially after my performance today,” Clifford said postgame. “I think I can play a lot better. I say that each week, but this week, it actually hurt us.”

The redshirt sophomore signal-caller has always been very critical of himself after games — even after some of the team’s finest wins this season. He may beat himself up, but Clifford can always count on the support of his teammates in tough times like this.

“The love that we have in the room — I really haven’t been around a team that loves each other like we do,” he added. “It’s just all about staying together know that each person has each other’s back. We have to keep grinding through this season. We’re not done yet.

“I’m definitely going to do some thinking today. Obviously, we haven’t dealt with this yet. But I’m definitely going to take a day and think, reflect, and watch the film. That’s really the only thing I want to do right now. I want to grow from this. One thing that I can guarantee is that I’m going to come in tomorrow with the same mentality I had before — if not hungrier.”

There were plenty of errors and mistakes throughout the game, but James Franklin doesn’t address them immediately after games.

“Earlier in my career, I’ve made mistakes after tough losses by pointing out the mistakes. That’s not the time for that,” Franklin said. “There are kids in there telling me they’re sorry, but there’s no reason for them to tell me they’re sorry. They give their blood, sweat, and tears to this program. There’s a lot of hurting in there.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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