STATE COLLEGE — Penn State has improved to 3-0.
A White Out crowd and a strong effort in all three phases of football led the Nittany Lions to a 28-20 triumph over the visiting Auburn Tigers on Saturday night here at Beaver Stadium.
Here are our takeaways from the victory.
1. Offense comes alive, defense does the job
It was an impressive outing evening for Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford, but he was hardly the only player who thrived in this win.
The veteran passer was 28 of 32 for two touchdowns, and while he did throw an interception late in the first half, he otherwise took care of the ball, hit wide-open receivers, and took advantage of what the Tigers were giving him, which on many drives, was a lot.
Back Noah Cain had 45 yards and a touchdown, tight end Tyler Warren rushed for a touchdown and also threw a pass, had Jahan Dotson had 10 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown to pace the receivers.
Then, on defense, linebacker Brandon Smith had 10 tackles and a near interception while Jesse Luketa totaled eight stops. Finally, Jordan Stout boomed big punts all night long.
This was an all-around team effort, and a very good one at that.
2. About that officiating
To put it nicely, referee James Carter and his SEC officiating crew were just brutal on Saturday night.
James Franklin frequently found himself asking for an explanation on any number of rulings. Should we start with the fact that Penn State mysteriously lost a down after an intentional grounding call in the first half and actually punted on what should have been third down, Sean Clifford being called for intentional grounding on a throwaway and Bo Nix wasn’t, the spot on PJ Mustipher’s “failed” fourth down run on a fake punt, or Brandon Smith’s personal foul in the fourth quarter?
I know Penn State fans have many more issues they’d like to point to, but those were the most egregious ones. Everyone has a bad day at their job, and for Carter and crew, this was one of those days. There’s no other way to put it other than to say it was a mostly incompetent performance.
3. Penn State brought out some wrinkles
Did you like the tricks Mike Yurcich pulled out on Saturday?
The offensive coordinator called a brilliant game, save for maybe one or two instances of getting a little too aggressive for what it felt like the situation called for. He gave quarterback Sean Clifford a lot of easy-to-complete throws and used the run game well.
As for the creativity: Who would have guessed that Tyler Warren would score on a direct-snap touchdown? And, don’t forget Jahan Dotson’s pass to Warren, that was fun!
There was also the fake punt which was a special teams wrinkle not an offense one, but all in all, Penn State was fun to watch because of all of those things, and it showed confidence in a lot of different players and put on a great display for anyone who was watching, especially recruits.
4. Welcome back big time college football
It’s hard to put into words just how terrific it was to attend Saturday’s night affair. It was everything a non-conference game should be: Full of action from start to finish with a tremendous home crowd, some fans from the visiting team, and noise. Lots of noise.
The official attendance was 109,958, and they were loud from the opening kickoff to the final horn sounded. After a year when we didn’t get to see anything even remotely close to this, it was great to witness.
Finally, there was a lot of talk prior to the game about Auburn not being impacted as much as others by the White Out crowd because they play in so many hostile venues in the SEC. While they certainly were up to the challenge, it’s hard to say that the crowd didn’t play a role in the outcome of the game, and that’s all you and ask for if you’re a Nittany Lions fan.
5. Odds and ends
–It might not be the right time to talk about it, but Penn State again failed to close out a game on its terms by running the ball and running the clock out. At some point, not being able to do so is going to cost them a game, but it didn’t on this night.
–The Lions only rushed for 89 yards and the offensive line was pushed around a bit by an aggressive Auburn front seven. However, the passing game did the heavy lifting, and that’s all you can ask for when things aren’t going exactly as planned.
–Penn State returns to the field next Saturday against Villanova. Kickoff is set for Noon. Will the Nittany Lions still be at No. 10 in the polls or will they climb higher?
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