On the heels of a horrific mistake, the much-maligned Sean Clifford led Penn State on a game-winning drive to provide the Nittany Lions an exciting 35-31 street victory over Purdue on Thursday evening.
Earlier within the fourth, Penn State seemed to be in full management. The Nittany Lions had a 28-24 lead and the ball close to midfield when Clifford, PSU’s sixth-year senior quarterback, threw his worst move of the evening.
Clifford had Mitchell Tinsley open over the center, however Clifford air-mailed it into the arms of Purdue’s Chris Jefferson, who returned the errant move 72 yards for a landing to place the Boilermakers forward 31-28 with 8:29 to go.
The shell-shocked Clifford struggled mightily on his subsequent two possessions, however the PSU protection bought a cease to provide the offense one ultimate shot with 2:22 to go.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Clifford stepped up in a giant means.
Clifford led an 8-play, 80-yard drive that took simply 57 seconds off the clock. Within the course of, Clifford accomplished 6-of-7 passes for 72 yards, together with the game-winning 10-yard landing to operating again Keyvone Lee with 57 seconds remaining.
Purdue’s offense would get one ultimate attempt, however couldn’t get previous midfield because the Penn State protection sealed an exciting season-opening victory.
It was a shocking flip of occasions for Clifford and the Nittany Lions, who have been inconsistent on offense all through the evening. However PSU was capable of make the performs when it mattered and escape West Lafayette with a gutsy win.
Recreation featured 7 lead adjustments
Earlier than Penn State’s epic game-winning drive, the lead modified arms six different occasions.
Purdue had a 10-7 lead late within the first half earlier than Penn State scored twice within the ultimate two minutes of the second quarter. First, Clifford gave the Nittany Lions a 14-10 lead through a two-yard sneak.
On the following possession, Purdue drove the ball deep into PSU territory earlier than fumbling within the crimson zone with 30 seconds to go within the half.
Three performs later, Clifford made a giant play. He escaped the pocket to the proper and located tight finish Brenton Unusual. Unusual bounced off a number of Purdue tacklers and took off for a 67-yard landing, giving PSU a 21-10 lead simply two seconds earlier than the half.
The third quarter, although, was all Purdue.
Aidan O’Connell and the Purdue offense was capable of choose aside the Penn State protection with Iowa switch Charlie Jones doing many of the injury at receiver. Jones caught 12 passes for 153 yards in his Purdue debut, together with a go-ahead 7-yard landing catch with 1:11 to go within the third quarter.
That Jones rating capped off a 10-play, 81-yard drive for the Boilermakers, their second landing drive of 75-plus yards within the third quarter to flip that 21-10 deficit right into a 24-21 lead.
Clifford almost misplaced recreation with horrible INT
After a dull third quarter, the PSU protection pressured two Purdue three-and-outs whereas the offense scored a landing in between to start out the fourth. Clifford hit KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 29-yard catch-and-run landing to place PSU forward 28-24 with 10:44 to play.
On its subsequent possession, Penn State appeared prefer it was able to take full management of the sport — till Clifford made that vast mistake, crusing that errant move over an open Tinsley’s head and into the arms of Jefferson.
It appeared like that pick-six would doom the Nittany Lions, however the Purdue offense was unable to run the clock out. The pass-happy Boilermakers continued to throw the ball, conserving valuable time on the clock.
Ultimately, the PSU protection bought off the sector and set the desk for Clifford and the PSU offense to win the sport in unbelievable trend.
What does this imply for Penn State?
With the way in which the final two seasons have gone, this was a giant win for James Franklin’s program.
PSU went 11-11 mixed in 2020 and 2021, together with closing out the 2021 marketing campaign by dropping six of eight to complete 7-6. The Nittany Lions appeared to come back up brief in so many shut video games, however they discovered a strategy to win this one in a raucous atmosphere. Clifford particularly has taken criticism all through his profession, however he confirmed large poise on that game-winning drive.
When Clifford was wholesome final fall, Penn State appeared like a very good staff. However as soon as Clifford bought injured vs. Iowa, the wheels got here off with so little depth behind him. This 12 months, PSU has acclaimed freshman Drew Allar within the fold and he made his debut when Clifford began the third quarter within the locker room with an unspecified damage.
Clifford will be irritating for the PSU fanbase, and a play like that brutal interception is a transparent instance of why many followers have clamored for Allar or one of many different younger QBs on the roster. On the identical time, a clutch two-minute drill drive reveals why Franklin and the workers have been pleased to have Clifford again for one more 12 months.
That is a drive to construct off going ahead with one other powerful street recreation — a visit to Auburn — on the horizon earlier than convention play resumes.