Penn State Football rebounded strongly from a blowout loss to Michigan, by dominating the Minnesota Golden Gophers from start to finish on Saturday night inside Beaver Stadium, during the annual White out.
The Nittany Lions ran away from Minnesota, 45-17, that saw quarterback Sean Clifford pass for 295 yards with four touchdowns to one interception, freshmen running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen combine for 156 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
With the Gophers dispatched, Penn State Football turns its attention to Sunday’s monumental clash with Ohio State.
Here’s how Penn State Football can build on Saturday night’s win next week against the Buckeyes:
Penn State Football’s Top Linebackers Shine
A discussion between many Penn State Football fans the last few weeks was the lack of time that Abdul Carter was getting and the lack of playing time together with Curtis Jacobs.
Carter got his first start of the season and shined. While Curtis Jacobs led the team with 14 tackles, Carter also tallied 8 tackles good for second on the team. The Lions’ run defense was much better Saturday against a Gopher team that prides itself on being able to run the ball.
The linebacker core will have its hands full this week with a duo of talented running backs in Treveyon Henderson and Miyan Williams. The two backs have combined for almost 1,000 yards this season and 13 touchdowns.
If Jacobs and Carter can contribute in stopping the run and help hide the middle linebacker position, Penn State will have a better chance forcing CJ Stroud to throw against a strong secondary. Manny Diaz would be advised to start Abdul Carter alongside Curtis Jacobs against the Buckeyes this Saturday.
Crowd plays pivotal role
The Gopher offense struggled all night with the noise, including a false start penalty on the first offensive snap of the game.
Minnesota had 5 false starts dealing with the rowdy whiteout crowd.
Part of this might be because they were playing a redshirt freshman backup quarterback. The other would be because they simply haven’t played in front of a whiteout night game at Beaver Stadium before.
The traditional whiteout opponents in Ohio State and Michigan are more used to the game, and typically have players who have played in the environment before.
This week will be a different challenge for the Penn State faithful. This will be the first time that Big Noon kickoff makes its way to State College.
This will be the biggest ranked matchup of the week, and the atmosphere should be electric.
It will be interesting to see if Penn State Football opens the gates extra early to try and get as many people into the stadium before this early kick as possible.
While it almost certainly won’t be as loud as a whiteout night game, if Penn State starts fast it could easily shift towards that type of atmosphere.
TE breakout game
The tight end room had already been one of the most consistent this season.
However, most of that production came from junior TE Brenton Strange who had amassed 17 receptions for 245 yards and 4 TDs through 6 games. No other TE had over 40 yards prior to this game.
Tyler Warren had a big 38 yard TD reception to give the Nittany Lions a 10-3 lead midway through the 2nd quarter. The biggest positive came from sophomore TE Theo Johnson. The prized 4 star recruit had struggled to get on the field earlier this season with injury issues. He led Penn State in receiving against Minnesota with 5 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
While Strange only had 1 catch for 5 yards, having 3 tight ends that Clifford can go to are a huge addition to this offense going into the Ohio State game. The wide receivers have shown flashes this year but haven’t been consistent so having a strong tight end room will matter against a strong Buckeye defense.
Parker Washington Shows Flashes of Potential
During the Outback bowl back in January, Parker Washington put the college football world on notice with a SportsCenter top-10 grab.
This week he had similar play elevating above a defender to make a touchdown grab that gave Penn State a two touchdown lead out of the half. This was Washington’s first touchdown of the season, and Penn State Football needs his success to carry over to the next week against a tough Ohio State defense.
Washington has 30 receptions for 388 yards on the season but this week, 7 catches for 70 was probably one of his most impressive games.
Out of all position groups for Ohio State the secondary is probably the weakest. If Washington and the other receivers can get open it could help to open up the run game for Singleton and company against a solid front 7.
Sean Clifford responds after slow start
There has been much criticism of Sean Clifford in recent weeks, and rightfully so.
Clifford had back-to-back games against Northwestern and Michigan where he struggled mightily and the Penn State fanbase let him hear it early Saturday. During pregame introductions Clifford was booed when announced as the starter, and the boos only grew louder when the team went 3 and out on the first 2 drives.
Clifford then threw a bad interception that resulted in Minnesota kicking a field goal. He settled down a little in the second quarter, and Penn State went up 17-3 before taking a 7-point lead into the half. Clifford continued to improve and led the Nittany Lions to an explosive third quarter that put the game away.
The starting quarterback finished 23-of-31 for 295 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception.
If Penn State Football is going to have a chance against Ohio State, they are going to need second half Clifford to show up and not the player we saw in previous weeks.
Like it or not, Clifford will most likely be the number one factor in whether the Nittany Lions can compete with the Buckeyes.
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