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No. 10 Penn State Outlasts No. 22 Auburn 28-20

No. 10 Penn State football (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) won its third straight game to open the season Saturday night, beating No. 22 Auburn (2-1) 28-20 in the White Out at Beaver Stadium.

The Nittany Lions fell behind 3-0 early on, but they were able to get it going thanks to some offensive creativity and solid defensive play. Despite a late push from Auburn, James Franklin’s squad was able to hold on and advance to 3-0 on the season.

With Saturday’s win, Penn State now owns a 7-6 record in full-stadium White Out games.

How It Happened

Auburn won the toss and deferred its choice to the second half, giving Sean Clifford and Co. the ball to start the game. The Nittany Lions got the ball rolling when Clifford connected with KeAndre Lambert-Smith on third down to move the chains.

Later in the drive, on 4th and 1, Clifford sneaked the ball right up the middle and was stuffed by the Tigers’ defense for no gain, which gave the ball to Bo Nix and Auburn’s offense.

Tank Bigsby immediately gashed Penn State’s defense for an 18-yard gain to set up Auburn at Penn State’s 38-yard line. However, Brent Pry’s defense held strong and forced an Anders Carlson 45-yard field attempt. He drilled it to give Auburn a 3-0 lead with 9:37 left in the quarter.

After the two teams exchanged punts, Penn State’s offense came out buzzing. Clifford looked sharp on the drive, completing four passes for 73 yards, including two passes over 20 yards to Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson, respectively. The drive concluded when Clifford found Jahan Dotson for a four-yard touchdown to put the Nittany Lions up 7-3 with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.

The second quarter started with Auburn facing a third down, which it converted to move the ball into Penn State’s territory. Later in the drive, Nix connected with Kobe Hudson for 37 yards to bring the Tigers down to the 13-yard line. Three plays later, Bigsby punched it in from four yards out to put Auburn ahead 10-7 with 12:28 left in the half.

On the ensuing Penn State drive, the refs appeared to lose track of what down it was after an intentional grounding call, which bizarrely led to Penn State punting on what was actually third down.

Following an Auburn punt, Dotson made an impressive catch for a 22-yard gain.

Then, two plays later, Dotson’s pass was completed to Tyler Warren for 22 yards to bring Penn State down to Auburn’s 30-yard line. Yes, you read that correctly. Later in the drive, Clifford connected with Brenton Strange for a two-yard touchdown to give Penn State a 14-10 lead with 1:23 left in the half.

Auburn went three and out on its next drive, giving the ball back to Penn State with 47 seconds remaining in the half. However, Clifford’s deep pass intended for Lambert-Smith was intercepted, which ended the half with the score 14-10 Penn State.

The Nittany Lions started the second half off with a bang, folks. On the first play of Auburn’s drive, Kobe Hudson fumbled the ball behind the line of scrimmage and it was recovered by Penn State’s Derrick Tangelo at the Tigers’ 20-yard line.

After a 17-yard completion to Dotson on the first play of the drive, Warren took a direct snap and leaped over his offensive line into the end zone from two yards out to put Penn State up 21-10 with 13:06 left in the quarter.

To their credit, the Tigers didn’t go away easily, as they drove down deep into Penn State’s territory on the ensuing drive. Bigsby capped off the drive with a six-yard touchdown run to make it a 21-17 game with 5:52 left in the quarter.

On Penn State’s next drive, Clifford continued his efficient game by completing all five of his passes. However, on 4th and 1, Penn State faked a punt and snapped the ball to defensive lineman PJ Mustipher, who came up short of the line to gain.

Auburn continued its offensive momentum with an effective ground game on the next drive. The third quarter ended with Auburn facing a 4th and 1 from Penn State’s 26-yard line. Carlson drilled a 43-yard field goal to cut Penn State’s lead to 21-20.

Baylor transfer running back John Lovett made an impact on the next drive, as he caught a screen pass and took it for 18 yards down to Auburn’s 43-yard line. On the next play, Clifford found a wide-open Strange for 40 yards. Later in the drive, Noah Cain ran it in from three yards out to extend Penn State’s lead to 28-20 with 10:48 left in the game.

After the two teams each punted, Auburn drove down deep into Penn State’s territory. Facing a 4th and 2 from the two-yard line, the Tigers attempted a fade to the back of the end zone but came up empty. Penn State took over with 3:08 left in the game.

The Tigers got the ball back with under a minute remaining, but they weren’t able to score a touchdown, giving Penn State a 28-20 White Out victory.

Takeaways

  • Welcome to the White Out, folks. Beaver Stadium was LOUD under White Out conditions Saturday night, with 109,958 fans in the building giving the Nittany Lions some extra energy all game long. In fact, the crowd was the 10th-largest in Beaver Stadium history. It may be cliché, but there’s really nothing like a White Out in Happy Valley.
  • Jahan Dotson is an incredible football player, man. He truly does it all, as he caught 10 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, he threw a dime (!!) to Tyler Warren for a 22-yard gain on a trick play. If that wasn’t enough, he had a solid day as a punt returner, too.
  • Mike Yurcich might actually be a mastermind. Penn State’s offense opened up its bag of tricks in this one, catching the Tigers’ defense off guard multiple times. From Jahan Dotson’s pass to Tyler Warren’s direct snap touchdown, Yurcich got creative and gave Auburn’s defense a different look, which resulted in a lot of success for Penn State’s offense. Add that to under center formations and fullback looks, and you have a much different looking offense than in past years.
  • Have a day, Sean Clifford. Besides an interception at the end of the first half, the signal-caller played near-perfect football all game long. He completed 88% of his passes, totaled 280 passing yards, and threw two touchdowns. Coming into the game, we knew Clifford could be one of the deciding factors, and his stellar play led the Nittany Lions to victory Saturday night.

What’s Next

Penn State will host Villanova at noon next Saturday. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network and the Fox Sports app.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a junior majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. 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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