No. 6 Penn State Thumps Northwestern 41-13

No. 6 Penn State (5-0, 3-0 Big Ten) blew out Northwestern (2-3, 1-2 Big Ten) 41-13 Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois.

While Northwestern took an early lead, Penn State kept things even in the first half, tying things 10-10 just before heading into the locker room. The Nittany Lions pulled away in the second half, scoring 17 points in the third quarter alone.

How It Happened

Northwestern won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. It didn’t matter though, as Nick Singleton fumbled the kickoff at Penn State’s 11-yard line, which Northwestern recovered for the Nittany Lions’ first turnover of the season. The first play of the drive resulted in a loss of one yard, but Cam Porter had a four-yard gain to bring up 3rd-and-7 on the eight-yard line. A large Penn State contingent adjacent to the end zone made its presence known, and the Wildcats false started. Northwestern didn’t convert on 4th-and-14, and Jack Olsen’s 33-yard field goal attempt made it 3-0 with 12:47 left in the first quarter.

Penn State had a touchback on the ensuing kickoff. Singleton made a brief three-yard run, then Drew Allar completed a six-yard pass to Dante Cephas to bring up 3rd-and-1. A quarterback sneak gave the offense a fresh set of downs, and two plays quickly brought up 3rd-and-3. KeAndre Lambert-Smith couldn’t make the catch, and the pass was nearly intercepted to end the drive.

Ben Bryant avoided Kobe King initially, but the Detroit native came back and sacked Bryant for a loss of three yards. King then tackled Porter for a loss of two yards on the next play, and Northwestern didn’t gain any yards on the next play, ending the drive at its own 16-yard line.

The Nittany Lions began the next drive on their own 44-yard line. Singleton ripped an outside run, barreling into the defense for a nine-yard gain. Kaytron Allen saw his first action of the game on the ensuing play, gaining two yards. Another run by Allen, an incomplete pass, and a false start brought up 4th-and-6, then he found Cephas again for a 15-yard gain. Singleton’s 16-yard reception and seven-yard gain had Penn State knocking on the door at the three-yard line. Penn State couldn’t punch the ball in, though, and Alex Felkins’ field goal tied it 3-3 with 2:37 left in the first quarter.

Then, A.J. Henning returned the following kickoff to the 40-yard line. He was nearly free, but Zion Tracy managed to bring him down. After an incomplete pass, Amin Vanover sacked Bryant for a loss of six yards. He recovered by firing a 19-yard pass to Cam Johnson, setting up 3rd-and-2, and Porter’s run brought up first down from Penn State’s 49-yard line. An incompletion and two loss-of-yardage plays brought up 4th-and-12, and Northwestern punted the ball away.

Starting at his own 11-yard line, Allen ripped a five-yard and one-yard gain. Allen gained six yards on the next play, but barely recovered his own fumble. Things continued looking bleak for the Nittany Lions, as two incomplete passes and a no-gain completion to Kaden Saunders forced them to punt.

Northwestern effectively moved the ball on its next drive. It started with a nine-yard completion to Johnson. Then, four plays and a sack later, Bryant fired a 17-yard completion to Porter, who was wide-open. After another four plays and an offsides call against Coziah Izzard, Bryant fired a pass to Johnson again, this time for 22 yards to put Northwestern at Penn State’s two-yard line. After three attempts, Bryant powered his way over the goal line to take a 10-3 lead with 5:46 to go in the second quarter.

Things didn’t get better for Penn State after that drive. Allen only managed a four-yard gain, then Allar fired two incomplete passes; the latter being broken up by Aidan Hubbard.

However, Penn State’s defense orchestrated a three-and-out for the Wildcats. Bryant threw an incomplete pass, while Zane Durant had a six-yard tackle for loss and Kevin Winston brought down Anthony Tyus III to end the drive.

Singleton ripped a one-yard gain when Penn State regained the ball. Then, Allar found KeAndre Lambert-Smith, who had room and gained 25 yards. Back-to-back plays involving Singleton put Penn State at Northwestern’s 15-yard line, and then a two-yard rush by Lambert-Smith refreshed the downs. Then, Trey Potts exploded into the end zone from 13 yards out to tie the game 10-10 with 1:16 left in the first half.

Northwestern started at the 25-yard line for the final drive of the first half, and Bryant was quickly sacked for a loss of six yards by Dani Dennis-Sutton. Bryant’s rush decreased it to 3rd-and-14, but he threw the ball out of bounds while under pressure to bring up fourth down.

After calling two timeouts on Northwestern’s drive, Penn State had 53 seconds left to try and score. Starting at the 45-yard line, Allar threw an incomplete pass, then recovered a fumble after a nine-yard sack to bring up 3rd-and-19. A pass to Theo Johnson brought up 4th-and-8, which ended the half with the game tied 10-10.

Porter gained one yard to open the second half. Then, Bryant threw an incomplete pass to bring up 3rd-and-9. His next pass was intended for Bryce Kirtz, but the ball soared over his head and out of bounds, forcing Northwestern to punt.

Singleton began the drive with consecutive four-yard rushes. On 3rd-and-2, Allar fired off a pass to Tyler Warren for a 10-yard gain. Allar tossed back-to-back incompletions to bring up 3rd-and-10, then threw a dot to Lambert-Smith, who made it all the way to Northwestern’s 15-yard line. Two plays later, a defensive holding call put Penn State at the three-yard line. It took Penn State four attempts to get the ball over the goal line, and Allar scored on the quarterback sneak to give the Nittany Lions a 17-10 lead with 8:40 left in the third quarter.

After three incompletions and a delay of game call against the Wildcats, Bryant scrambled for a gain of 14 yards, as the ball was ruled barely short of the line to gain. On 4th-and-1, Penn State’s defense stuffed the quarterback sneak attempt, which gave the Nittany Lions the ball on Northwestern’s 31-yard line.

However, Penn State didn’t find the end zone when it had the ball. The only gain on that drive was a two-yard rush from Singleton, but Allar’s consecutive incompletions brought up 4th-and-9. Felkins kicked a 47-yard field goal, which expanded Penn State’s lead to 20-10 with 6:03 left in the third quarter.

Manny Diaz’s defense came up strong again, forcing another three-and-out for the Wildcats. They faked a punt on fourth down, but Tracy tackled Charlie Mangieri short of the line to gain at Northwestern’s 34-yard line.

Singleton opened the drive with consecutive rushes, including a 16-yard gain in which he was nearly free before being pushed out of bounds. A few plays later it was 1st-and-goal, and it only took two tries for Allar to find Singleton in the end zone to make it 27-10 with 1:24 left in the quarter.

After an incomplete pass and a four-yard gain, Bryant completed an 11-yard pass to Cam Johnson. He threw another incompletion, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Cam Miller put Northwestern at Penn State’s 45-yard line. Bryant fired a 17-yard pass to Thomas Gordon, then Porter rushed for eight yards to continue moving the ball. Another 13-yard pass to Cam Johnson put Northwestern at Penn State’s three-yard line. The Wildcats’ drive stalled, and on 3rd-and-goal, Zane Durant barreled through an open gap and sacked Bryant for nine yards, injuring him on the play. Northwestern then kicked a field goal to make it 27-13 with 12:01 left in the fourth quarter.

Allar fired a 12-yard pass to Lambert-Smith to open the drive, but things didn’t get any better. A two-yard rush by Singleton was sandwiched between two incompletions, forcing Penn State to punt the ball away.

Brendan Sullivan replaced Bryant at quarterback. Sullivan and the Wildcats went three-and-out and only gained two yards on the drive.

Then, Penn State’s offense had a 13-play drive that culminated in another touchdown. Allar completed four passes, including a 14-yard dot to Lambert-Smith and a 15-yard completion to Warren. It was Singleton, however, who scored on a one-yard rush to make it 34-13 with 4:03 left in the game.

Penn State kept the momentum going, as Daequan Hardy intercepted Sullivan’s pass at Penn State’s 36-yard line and returned it 34 yards. Then, on his very first play, Beau Pribula hit a wide-open Trey Potts in stride, who ran it into the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown to make it 41-13 with 2:26 left in the game.

Pott’s touchdown put the game away, as Penn State won 41-13 to improve to a 5-0 record heading into the bye week.


  • Today’s game ended up being a big test for Penn State. After trailing 10-3 in a half where moving the ball was difficult against a resilient defense, the Nittany Lions rallied to overcome the deficit, which proves they can handle adversity.
  • Is it a real Penn State win if the defense doesn’t dominate? It played well again, allowing 175 yards, a turnover, a sack, and 2.8 average yards per play, according to StatBroadcast.
  • Penn State continues to struggle to score in the first quarter. It only scored three points today in the opening 15 minutes, and it has failed to score more than seven in the first quarter in every game except Delaware this season. Although the offense eventually found its footing, it will need to improve at scoring earlier in order to remain undefeated
  • On the contrary, the Nittany Lions have played much better in the third quarter, as they have outscored opponents 64-0 in that timeframe. Although some people have doubts over how effective Mike Yurcich and Co. are, the third quarter serves as evidence that it’s simply a matter of time before Penn State runs up the score and takes control of the game.

What’s Next?

Penn State has the week off for a bye week. After that, the Nittany Lions play the UMass Minutemen at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 14, at Beaver Stadium.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a senior journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland. He's an avid D.C sports fan and loves going to games in his free time. Nolan mainly writes about Penn State football, men's hockey, and baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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