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Top 10 Plays From Penn State Football’s 2022 Season

On Saturday, Penn State football’s 2022 regular season campaign came to a close with a 35-16 victory over Michigan State. With the triumph, the Nittany Lions reached the 10-win mark for the fourth time in the last seven years.

The exciting, bounce-back run was cultivated by several jaw-dropping moments, but a select few plays from this season will likely retain their legendary status for years to come. 

From Nick Singleton’s kickoff return for a touchdown in enemy territory at Rutgers to Curtis Jacobs’ acrobatic pick-six in the Big House, let’s take a look at the top 10 plays from the Nittany Lions’ latest 12 regular season matchups. 

10. “There Goes Singleton” Touchdown Run Against Auburn

Before entering the highly-anticipated road matchup at Jordan-Hare Stadium in week three, not many fans or analysts outside the Happy Valley community were aware of Nick Singleton’s rarified, straight-line speed. 

In a hostile, SEC environment, Singleton single-handedly redefined the definition of “SEC speed.” Toward the beginning of the fourth quarter, the five-star true freshman took a simple, inside RPO carry 54 yards to find paydirt, which extended the Nittany Lions’ lead to 26 points. 

Singleton concluded the matchup with 124 yards on the ground through just 10 carries en route to a statement 41-12 road win. 

9. Tinsley’s One-Handed White Out Snag

Death. Taxes. Signature plays in White Outs. 

After transferring to Happy Valley by way of a four-year run at Western Kentucky, wide receiver Mitchell Tinsely was previously a stranger to intense home-field advantages before running out of Beaver Stadium’s tunnel. 

Just over midway through the second quarter, the Nittany Lions needed a spark after beginning the matchup behind two punts and an interception on three offensive series. 

With a slim, one-score advantage, Tinsley made a smooth over-the-shoulder one-handed grab after warranting a free play thanks to the Golden Gophers’ jumpy defensive line. 

The haul-in helped put the Nittany Lions in prime scoring position, as Theo Johnson capped off the drive with an 18-yard touchdown reception just two plays later to take a 17-3 lead. 

8. Half-Ending Defensive Stand Against Ohio State

Not only was Johnny Dixon’s booming takedown of Ohio State gunslinger CJ Stroud one of the best defensive plays of the season, but it also created Beaver Stadium’s most electric sequence of the 2022 campaign. 

Instead of electing to clock the 2nd-down play in hopes of attempting a go-ahead field goal try, Buckeyes’ head coach Ryan Day kept his offense on the turf with seconds remaining in the opening half. 

The decision backfired thanks to Dixon, who burst past the Buckeyes’ offensive line on a corner blitz, which capped off the first half in dramatic fashion. 

With Penn State holding a one-point edge entering the locker room, the combination of crowd roars and Zombie Nation lit up the Stripe Out crowd more than any other play throughout the late-October clash. 

7. KeAndre Lambert-Smith — QB1?

Even during the regular-season finale, quarterback controversy questions continued to dominate headlines across Nittany Nation. 

However, this time, the quarrel was created by wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith, not Drew Allar. 

Early in the second quarter against Michigan State, Franklin elected for trickery against the Spartans’ lowly secondary. Clifford flipped a screen to Lambert-Smith, who fired a rope to a wide-open Theo Johnson for a walk-in score. 

6. Parker Washington — “On His Head!”

During Penn State’s 45-17 takedown of Minnesota, NFL legend Randy Moss was likely smiling somewhere thanks to the services of Parker Washington. 

Directly out of the halftime gates, the Nittany Lions kept their collective feet on the gas by continuing to wear down Minnesota’s defense through the air. 

Ultimately, Washington capped off the short-lived four-play, 64-yard drive with an electric 35-yard “Moss” on the head of defensive back Terell Smith. 

5. Curtis Jacobs’ “Big House-Call”

Penn State picked up just one first down in the entire first half against Michigan in Ann Arbor. Yet, the Nittany Lions found themselves down by only two points at the break, largely due to Curtis Jacobs. 

In a favorable 3rd-and-short situation for the Wolverines, Jim Harbaugh’s crew initially appeared as though it would continue to grind Penn State’s defensive down on the ground. 

However, quarterback JJ McCarthy faked an end-around look, rolled out, and had his pass attempt tipped by Chop Robinson. Miraculously, Jacobs tracked down, caught the stray pass, and took it to the house to keep the Nittany Lions in striking distance. 

The momentum immediately shuttered from there for Penn State, as Franklin’s crew was ultimately ground down for a brutal 41-17 shellacking. 

4. Brenton Strange’s Bear-Hug Grab Against Indiana

While the Nittany Lions handled Indiana with ease on the heels of 16 tackles for loss by Manny Diaz’s defensive unit, the offense also put up its fair share of fireworks in Bloomington. 

Holding a commanding, 24-7 lead in the third quarter, tight end Brenton Strange added in on the demolition by extending the drive with an all-time snag. 

With ample protection, Clifford fired a strike toward the middle of the field into tight coverage. Amazingly, Strange hauled in the laser on the back of an Indiana defensive back for a 25-yard gain. 

3. Nick Singleton’s Kickoff Return Touchdown In Piscataway

Even during the Nittany Lions’ 11th matchup of the year, opposing teams still, for some reason, chose to kick it off into the arms of Nick Singleton. 

After jumping out to a promising 3-0 lead behind a solid second series, Singleton silenced a sold-out SHI Stadium in dramatic fashion. 

Doing his best Saquon Barkley impression, the freshman phenom weaved through the Scarlet Knights’ scattered special teams unit for a 100-yard kickoff return to the house. 

2. “Stix City Is A Place” — Abdul Carter

Micah Parsons, is that you?

During Ohio State’s first half-ending sequence against the Nittany Lions, freshman linebacker Abdul Carter pulled out his best impersonation of the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, who also happened to once roam sideline-to-sideline in Happy Valley. 

Following a 23-yard connection courtesy of CJ Stroud and Cade Stover, the Nittany Lions’ defense cranked up the heat against the Buckeyes’ potent air-raid attack. 

On 2nd & 10 in enemy territory, Ohio State proved to be on pace toward putting up points before packing in the opening half at Beaver Stadium. However, Carter had other intentions. 

The lightning-fast true freshman weaved through every Ohio State layer of protection and ultimately forced an 11-yard sack, effectively ensuring the halftime lead for the Nittany Lions. 

Carter finished the matchup with four total tackles, and, of course, one unforgettable highlight. 

1. “Goodnight, West Layfayette” — Keyvone Lee’s Game-Winning Wheel Route

In a season with only one, one-score game, the year’s best play had to result from its most dramatic showing. 

Following Clifford’s costly 72-yard forced pick-six, Purdue captured a late 31-28 lead with 8:29 to go in the Boilermakers’ opening-week atmosphere. 

The Nittany Lions couldn’t find any momentum during their next two sequences, which both resulted in punts. Finally, with the game on the line, Mike Yurcich’s gang put on a surgical display in the clutch. 

With 2:22 remaining, Penn State put on an eight-play, 80-yard masterclass, resulting in Keyvone Lee’s game-winning score. Moreover, the picture-esque wheel route brought visions of Saquon Barkley’s grab over TJ Watt in the 2016 Big Ten Championship back to life for many Penn Staters. 

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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