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Penn State’s Post-Rose Bowl Report Card

As Porky Pig once said, “That’s all, folks!”

On Monday night, Penn State capped its 2022 campaign with a 35-21 Rose Bowl victory over No. 8 Utah.

Sean Clifford put the bow on his Penn State career with arguably his best performance as a Nittany Lion, tossing the pigskin for 279 yards and two touchdowns with a completion percentage of 72.7%. On the other side of the ball, Penn State’s defense balled out. Kalen King and Ji’Ayir Brown each recorded an interception, and Utah totaled only 207 passing yards.

James Franklin also snapped his drought of defeating top-10 teams with a win over the No. 8-ranked Utes.

It was an all-around excellent performance by the Nittany Lions. Here’s how each position group fared in Monday’s Rose Bowl win.

Quarterbacks: A

We don’t think anyone could’ve written the script better for Sean Clifford’s final game as a Nittany Lion. The sixth-year quarterback played his tail off, completing 16-of-22 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns, earning him Rose Bowl offensive MVP honors. He also earned an awesome curtain call at the end of the game in which he basically passed the torch to Drew Allar.

His best play of the game, and probably most important, came when he spun out of a potential sack on 3rd and 8 to find KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a big gain down the field.

At that point, the game started to open up, and giving the ball back to Utah could have allowed the Utes to take a lead. But the four-year starter made a fantastic play to pick up the first down and more, eventually leading to a Mitchell Tinsley touchdown.

Running Backs: A

What else is there to say about Nick Singleton at this point?

The true freshman running back is obviously a stud, and he showed that on a national stage, once again, in the Rose Bowl. His 87-yard touchdown run really broke the game open for Penn State and left fans in shock with his speed.

Singleton finished the game with seven carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns. We can’t forget about Kaytron Allen, though.

Even though the fellow true freshman had a quiet day on the ground, he scored one touchdown and served as the perfect complement to Singleton. He also provided a great block on Penn State’s first touchdown of the day out of the T-Formation.

Wide Receivers: A

The Rose Bowl was KeAndre Lambert-Smith’s coming out party. The sophomore wide receiver stepped up in Parker Washington’s absence, catching three passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. Similar to Singleton, he razzle-dazzled with his speed.

Mitchell Tinsley had a great day as well. In his last game as a Nittany Lion, the graduate transfer caught six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown and was the most-targeted wide receiver with eight targets.

Tight Ends: B+

The tight ends had a quiet day but to no fault of their own. Theo Johnson caught one pass for 28 yards, while Tyler Warren caught one pass for 15 yards. Both players were targeted only once in the game.

Brenton Strange had the quietest day of them all, as he was not targeted once in the game.

Offensive Line: B+

Penn State’s five-man front had a good day. In terms of pass protection, the group did fine. Sean Clifford was sacked three times. But the group’s blocking for the run was beautiful, especially when Penn State ran the T-Formation. It’s hard to not give the offensive line credit when the team has 169 rushing yards in the game.

Front Seven: B

There were times, especially in the first half, when Penn State failed to stop Utah’s rushing attack. Through the first half, Utah gained 119 rushing yards on 21 attempts. That wasn’t the case in the second half, though, as Penn State tightened its run defense and allowed 83 yards.

Penn State also recorded six sacks, as Cam Rising was sacked once, Barnes four times, and Vele once. That was a big part of Penn State’s second-half defensive stronghold.

Secondary: A

Penn State’s secondary probably had one of the best games it had all season. Utah was only limited to 207 passing yards, as 95 of those came from Cam Rising. The Utes weren’t able to get much through the air all game, especially considering how many players the Nittany Lions rotated in throughout the game.

Kalen King’s interception was what got the team going, according to James Franklin. The sophomore cornerback made a fabulous play on the ball to pick off Rising in the first quarter, which eventually led to Penn State’s first touchdown of the game.

Ji’Ayir Brown was named Rose Bowl defensive MVP. He recorded one interception, 1.5 sacks, and a team-high eight total tackles.

Special Teams: A

Jake Pinegar did his job, making all five of his PAT attempts.

Barney Amor had one of his best games all season, booting five punts for 232 yards. The beginning of the game was certainly a field position battle, and Amor did his part in making sure that Utah didn’t have any advantage on that front. He also punted a ball late in the game that spun right before the goal line, allowing long snapper Chris Stoll to dive into the end zone and make a spectacular play to keep the ball down at the one-yard line.

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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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