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No. 11 Penn State Survives, Downs Northwestern 17-7

No. 11 Penn State left Beaver Stadium with a 17-7 victory over Northwestern Saturday afternoon.

The Nittany Lions battled through some terrible weather and conditions. It wasn’t a pretty win, though. Penn State turned the ball over five times, with four fumbles, and gave Northwestern every opportunity to come back into the game. Luckily, Penn State’s defense hung tough time and time again to help lead the Nittany Lions to victory.

How It Happened

Northwestern got the ball first in the game but didn’t make the most of it, as three straight rushing attempts by the Wildcats resulted in a Northwestern three-and-out.

Penn State then got the ball on its own 21-yard line, but a holding penalty on the Northwestern punt set the Nittany Lions back ten yards to start their first drive of the game. Running back Nicholas Singleton made his presence felt immediately, carrying the ball on seven of the nine plays from scrimmage on the first drive. He amassed 25 yards before punter Barney Amor booted the ball back to the Wildcats. Again, they went three-and-out.

Nicholas Singleton then fumbled the ball on the Northwestern 40-yard line, but the Wildcats once again went three-and-out. After the Nittany Lions got the ball back on the punt, Sean Clifford’s pass intended for Trey Wallace was picked off by Northwestern’s Bryce Gallagher at the Penn State 42-yard line.

The Nittany Lions quickly got the ball back when Ji’Ayir Brown picked off Northwestern quarterback Ryan Hilinski and took it back to Penn State’s 40-yard line after a holding penalty on the return.

Sean Clifford made the most of the turnover, as he completed a 20-yard pass to Brenton Strange who leaped his way into the end zone for the game’s first score with 15 seconds left.

Play was quiet to begin the second quarter, as both teams exchanged punts. Northwestern finally picked up a first down in the second quarter, but the drive didn’t amount to anything. Ryan Hilinski couldn’t handle a poor snap, and Nick Tarburton fell on the ball to recover the fumble for Penn State at Northwestern’s 45-yard line.

That fumble led to Nick Singleton’s first score of the game, as he battled his way into the end zone on a two-yard carry to extend Penn State’s lead to 14-0 over Northwestern with 5:02 left in the second quarter.

The two teams then traded fumbles to conclude the second half.

Penn State began the third quarter with a decent drive up the field, but Keyvone Lee fumbled the ball at Northwestern’s 33-yard line to give the ball to the Wildcats. As you could probably predict at this point, Penn State’s defense held the wildcats to another three-and-out. That didn’t help the Nittany Lions much, though, as Penn State also went three-and-out after that.

The Wildcats made things interesting in the third quarter, as Ryan Hilisnki found a wide-open Jacob Gill for a 47-yard touchdown, cutting Penn State’s lead to 14-7 with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter.

Sean Clifford and co. answered, though. Clifford completed a 43-yard pass to Parker Washington to bring Penn State into Northwestern territory. The Nittany Lions settled for a Jake Pinegar 38-yard field goal to extend Penn State’s lead to 17-7 with 14:29 left in the fourth quarter.

Things continued to stay interesting. Northwestern drove 74 yards down the field and was left with 4th and goal at Penn State’s one-yard line with a chance to narrow Penn State’s lead. PJ Mustipher then stuffed Hilinski on the quarterback sneak attempt to turn the ball over on downs. Penn State couldn’t make much of the opportunity, as it punted the ball away quickly.

Northwestern got the ball back, but Penn State’s defense stood strong and forced the Wildcats to turn the ball over on downs for the second consecutive drive. Of course, Penn State went three-and-out again.

The teams then exchanged punts, setting Penn State up for a potential game-icing drive. Then Kaytron Allen fumbled the football to give Northwestern another chance to get back in the game. Luckily, Penn State’s defense stood strong once again.

The offense was able to finally finish the job and milk the clock for Penn State’s fifth win of the season.


  • Penn State’s defense bailed the team out massively today. Yes, there were a few explosive plays given up, but the offense turned the ball over four times. Yet, the defense allowed zero points off turnovers. Northwestern was never really given a yard throughout the game.
  • The self-inflicted wounds were definitely an issue today for the offense. Penn State turned the ball over five times, with one interception and four fumbles. That’s not great. Nick Singleton fumbled the ball twice and Keyvone Lee & Kaytron Allen once. That’s some stuff that has to be cleaned up with Penn State’s toughest part of its schedule coming up after the bye week.
  • Mike Yurcich’s offense in general was very streaky. There were drives when the unit clicked very well, and there were others where it looked like it couldn’t buy a yard. We saw this a bit last week against Central Michigan, as well.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will be off next weekend, as the team heads into its bye week. Penn State will then be back in action when it takes on No. 4 Michigan on Saturday, October 15 at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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