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No Turnovers Key To Penn State’s Win Over Michigan

Penn State football won its first game of the season this past Saturday 27-17 over Michigan.

After losing their first five games of the season, the Nittany Lions finally played complementary football and, most importantly, took care of the football.

In all five losses this season, the Nittany Lions turned the ball over at least once, which resulted in 13 total turnovers on the season. It was just last week after Penn State turned the ball over four times in a loss to Iowa when James Franklin expressed his frustration with the turnovers.

“The story of the game is you can’t turn the ball over,” Franklin said. “That’s been the story of the season, turnovers. You can’t turn the ball over, and when you have opportunities to get turnovers, you gotta get them.”

Taking care of the football is something James Franklin has emphasized all season long, and it was no surprise when he mentioned it after Saturday’s win.

“I think the biggest thing is obviously no turnovers,” Franklin said after the game. “That’s been the issue that we’ve been battling and working through all year long.”

Quarterback Sean Clifford’s performance was one of the biggest reasons for Penn State’s turnover-free afternoon in Ann Arbor. Prior to the win over Michigan, Clifford turned the ball over in every game this season and had 10 turnovers (eight interceptions, two fumbles) in total.

In fact, it was the turnovers that sent Clifford to the bench in favor of Will Levis ahead of Penn State’s matchup with Iowa.

“The whole reason for the [quarterback] change was the turnovers,” Franklin said after the loss to Iowa. “And then we made the change to go with Will [Levis]…but then we started to turn the ball over again when the whole reason for the change was turnovers.”

Clifford and Levis have actually combined to commit every Penn State turnover this season, which highlights the importance of Clifford’s performance against Michigan.

Clifford completed 61% of his passes, rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown, and managed the game in his mistake-free performance. Center Michal Menet talked about Clifford’s performance after the game and what he saw from his quarterback.

“I’ve never wavered in Cliff’s ability,” Menet said. “I’ve never stopped trusting or lost any faith in him whatsoever. He was playing confident and was careful with the football, and I’m not gonna sit here and act like I’m surprised. To see him back to himself and just having fun out there, it just made me so happy.”

Clifford and the Nittany Lions’ offense will need to continue protecting the football if they want to start stacking some wins together. Dating back to 2017, in Penn State’s last 12 losses, it has turned the ball over at least once.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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