Penn State Overpowered By No. 21 Arkansas 24-10 In Outback Bowl

Penn State football (7-6, 4-5 Big Ten) was outplayed by No. 21 Arkansas (9-4) in a 24-10 loss in the 2022 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

The Nittany Lions came into the game without several starters, and it certainly showed throughout the game. While Penn State led 10-7 at halftime, Arkansas completely dominated the second half and scored 17 unanswered points to end the game.

With the loss, Penn State goes into the offseason with an 11-11 record over the past two seasons.

How It Happened

Arkansas won the toss and deferred its choice to the second half, giving Sean Clifford and Co. the ball to start the game.

Penn State’s offense took the field with Cam Sullivan-Brown starting in Jahan Dotson’s place. On the fifth play of the opening drive, Clifford connected with Parker Washington for a 42-yard gain to move the Nittany Lions into the red zone.

After an intentional grounding penalty on 3rd down, Jake Pinegar, not Jordan Stout, came on to attempt a 50-yard field goal. He missed it badly, and the Razorbacks took over in their own territory.

The Razorbacks immediately moved the ball all the way down to the Nittany Lions’ 11-yard line. However, KJ Jefferson’s end zone shot was intercepted by Ji’Ayir Brown to give Penn State the ball back at its 20-yard line.

On the second play of the drive, Clifford’s pass was intercepted by Greg Brooks Jr., and Arkansas got the ball right back around midfield.

After the two teams traded punts, Arkansas got the ball back and faced a 4th and 3 from Penn State’s 41-yard line. Jefferson alluded a few defenders and scrambled for 13 yards and a new set of downs. Later in the drive, Raheim Sanders punched it in from three yards out to give the Razorbacks a 7-0 lead going into the second quarter.

On 3rd and 6 on the next drive, Washington made an unreal one-handed grab to gain 16 yards.

A play later, Noah Cain broke loose for another 16 yards. Despite the two big plays, Stout eventually came on to punt to give the ball back to Arkansas.

After an Arkansas punt, Penn State took over at the Razorbacks’ 42-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Clifford found a wide-open KeAndre Lambert Smith for a 42-yard touchdown to tie the game at seven with 10:53 left in the half.

Penn State got the ball back after Nick Tarburton sacked Jefferson to force a punt. Keyvone Lee broke loose for a 25-yard gain on 1st down to get the ball rolling for the Nittany Lions once again.

Later in the drive, Pinegar drilled a 33-yard field goal to put the Nittany Lions up 10-7 with 5:19 left in the half.

Smith Vilbert’s third sack of the game helped force another Razorbacks punt, and Penn State started its next drive at its own 16-yard line.

A 32-yard connection between Clifford and Lambert-Smith helped set up quite possibly the weirdest fake punt we’ve seen in a while. Stout ended up throwing the ball almost 50 yards down the field, and it ended up falling incomplete, giving Arkansas the ball back.

The half came to a close when Brown picked off Jefferson once again, as the scored stayed at 10-7 at the end of two quarters.

Arkansas came out in the third quarter firing and moved the ball past midfield within the first four plays. Jefferson capped off the seven-play, 75-yard drive with an eight-yard rushing touchdown to put the Razorbacks ahead 14-10 with 12:42 left in the quarter.

After a Penn State three and out, Arkansas found itself driving into the Nittany Lions’ territory once more. Facing a 4th and 1 on Penn State’s 18-yard line, the Razorbacks narrowly converted to keep their drive alive.

Two big tackles for loss from Tarburton and Jordan van den Berg pushed Arkansas back and forced a field goal attempt. Cam Little was good from 36 yards out to extend Arkansas’ lead to 17-10.

The Razorbacks took over possession after another Penn State punt at their own 21-yard line. Arkansas gashed the Nittany Lions on the ground for 79 yards in just four plays, ending with a Sanders four-yard score to put the Razorbacks ahead 24-10 with 2:08 left in the quarter.

Penn State finally got a jolt of energy when Clifford picked up back-to-back first downs with his legs to push the offense past midfield right before the game advanced to the final 15 minutes. Later in the drive, with Penn State in the red zone, Clifford was intercepted with 12:39 left in the game.

After an Arkansas punt, Christian Veilleux checked in at quarterback for Penn State, as Clifford was seen walking to the locker room with a towel over his head. The Nittany Lions picked up just one first down and were then forced to punt.

Neither team would add any points the rest of the game, and Penn State dropped its final game of the season 24-10.


  • Where were the second-half adjustments? Penn State went into the locker room at halftime up 10-7. It was a good start for the Nittany Lions, but it all changed in the second half. Arkansas came out and punched Penn State in the mouth, scoring 17 unanswered points to end the game. The lack of second-half adjustments from Penn State, as opposed to what appeared to be effective changes for Arkansas, proved to be the difference.
  • To say Penn State struggled against the run Saturday would be an understatement. The Nittany Lions were completely gashed on the ground to the tune of 361 yards and three touchdowns. You have to think the absence of several front seven starters played a role, but the amount of missed tackles by the squad was alarming. With the performance on the ground, Arkansas now holds the second-most single-game rushing yards in Outback Bowl history, trailing only Wisconsin’s 400 in 2015.
  • Despite the loss, redshirt sophomore Smith Vilbert balled out in his first career start. He totaled three sacks in the game, which is tied for the most single-game sacks in the history of the Outback Bowl. Vilbert had just three total tackles coming into the game, but with multiple defensive starters opting out of the game, he got an opportunity and made the most of it.

What’s Next

That’s a wrap on Penn State football’s 2021 season. Next up is the Nittany Lions’ annual Blue-White game, which is scheduled for April 23.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

After a four-year career with Onward State, Gabe is now a college graduate and off to the real world. He shockingly served as the blog’s managing editor during the 2022-23 school year and covered football for much of his Onward State tenure, including trips to the Outback Bowl and Rose Bowl. For any professional inquiries, please email Gabe at [email protected]. You can still see his bad sports takes on Twitter at @gabeangieri.

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