Sean Clifford

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No. 2 Ohio State clinches Big Ten East with 28-17 win against No. 8 Penn State

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For the first time all season, No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) was challenged into the fourth quarter. And once it did, the Buckeyes sealed the deal with a 28-17 victory over No. 8 Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten). The win clinched the Big Ten East Division championship for Ohio State and continues to put Ohio State on the inside track to a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Penn State’s defense created a spark in the third quarter with two straight fumbles that led to Penn State points. After Penn State running back Journey Brown capped Penn State’s best drive of the game with a touchdown run, the defense knocked the ball loose from JK Dobbins on the first play on the ensuing possession. After a mad scramble for the ball, Penn State recovered at 12-yard line. Backup quarterback Will Levis completed a pass to Pat Freiermuth to bring the ball just short of the goal line, and Levis took the ball in himself on the following play to quickly bring Penn State within a touchdown. Fumble issues continued for Ohio State on the next possession when Justin Fields lost the football just before his knee touched the ground on the third play of the drive. Another Penn State fumble recovery led to a field goal to trim the Ohio State lead to 21-17.

Penn State’s starting quarterback, Sean Clifford, left the game in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury. Levis finished off the game at quarterback for the Nittany Lions. Fields was bange dup late in the fourth quarter but jogged off the field on his own.

Chase Young returned from a two-game suspension and became the school leader for the most sacks in a season. After tying the school mark with half a sack in the first half, Young moved into sole possession of first place in the school’s record books with half a sack in the third quarter on a key third down, moving him to 14.5 sacks this season. Young continued to have a significant impact on the game with non-stop pressure in the backfield. He was, decisively, the best player in the game.

Ohio State will have a date in Indianapolis reserved for the Big Ten championship game in two weeks. The Buckeyes will face either Minnesota or Wisconsin. The Big Ten West division may have to be decided next week in a head-to-head matchup between the Gophers and Badgers. Minnesota will host Wisconsin. Ohio State has already faced Wisconsin and defeated them handily. Ohio State has not played Minnesota this season.

The regular season will come to an end next week. For Ohio State, a chance to put together a 12-0 season heading to the Big Ten championship game will be on the line against That Team Up North when the Buckeyes head to Ann Arbor to face Michigan. Penn State will have a favorable draw to end their regular season with a win with a home game against Rutgers to close out the schedule.

No. 9 Penn State grinds out win vs. Indiana to improve to 9-1, Buckeyes up next

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A week after suffering its first loss, No. 9 Penn State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) didn’t exactly rebound in crisp fashion at home against Indiana (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) on Saturday. But after 60 minutes of play, the Nittany Lions will take a win any way they can as they get set for a massive test next week. A late touchdown run by Sean Clifford provided the much-needed breathing room as Penn State fought for a 34-27 victory.

After Indiana trimmed Penn State’s lead to 27-24 in the fourth quarter, Penn State orchestrated an 18-play drive that shaved off over nine minutes of game clock. Clifford ended the drive by pushing across the goal line for a touchdown to create a late two-score game. Clifford lost a fumble in the game but did not throw an interception a week after being picked off three times. Clifford ended his day with 179 passing yards and a touchdown pass to Nick Bowers, and Clifford added 54 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns in the victory.

Penn State also had another 100-yard day from running back Journey Brown (21 carries, 100 yards, 1 touchdown) and two big catches from tight end Pat Freiermuth (although no touchdowns). Penn State lost wide receiver KJ Hamler to an apparent head injury in the first half. His status moving forward will now be in some question.

Indiana also lost its top playmaker with receiver Whop Philyor leaving the game late in the first half. Peyton Ramsey and the Hoosiers still managed to make some plays to keep drives alive (Ramsey passed for 371 yards and a touchdown and scored two touchdowns on the ground), and a pair of special teams mishaps didn’t help in the effort. Philyor muffed a punt in the first quarter that ultimately led to a Penn State touchdown (although video replay showed he may not have touched the ball, but not strong enough to overturn the call on the field), and one of the worst fake punt attempts was quickly turned into a big Penn State touchdown in the third quarter.

Next up for Penn State is a big one. The Nittany Lions travel to Columbus, Ohio next week to take on Ohio State. The undefeated Buckeyes (barring a monumental upset on the road at Rutgers today) will be the biggest test of the year for a Penn State team that has had room for improvement across the board the last few weeks. First place in the Big Ten East will be on the line, and there is a chance Ohio State could wrap up the division with a win. Penn State needs to win to have a shot at the Big Ten championship and to remain in the playoff race heading into the final game of the regular season.

Indiana will play its final home game of the season next week when they host Michigan.

Penn State leading Indiana despite sluggish first-half effort

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A week after giving up the first two first-quarter touchdowns of the season, Penn State’s defense was unable to lock things down early against Indiana. Despite a tough first quarter, Penn State leads the Hoosiers 20-14 at halftime in Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions attempt to keep their playoff hopes alive for one more week.

Both teams seem to have lost their biggest playmakers in the first half. KJ Hamler had his helmet taken away on the sideline after appearing to land on his head awkwardly at the end of a kickoff return. Indiana’s Whop Philyor was taken to the sideline medical tent after being hit hard and fumbling in the second quarter. There was no targeting on the play, which was confirmed by the video replay review during a timeout. Without their top wide receivers, neither offense has looked particularly sharp despite a back-and-forth first quarter.

Sean Clifford rushed for a 38-yard touchdown and completed a touchdown pass to tight end Nick Bowers in the first quarter, but the offense has had a tough time keeping things going against Indiana. Hamler had 52 yards on two receptions before leaving the game, and he remains the leading receiver for Penn State. Philyor had 50 yards on two receptions as well. The bigger concern for Penn State has been the pass defense, which struggled against Minnesota last week and has its hands full against the top-ranked passing offense in the conference.

Peyton Ramsey and the Hoosiers are hanging around and will get the ball to start the second half.

No. 17 Minnesota makes B1G statement in upset of No. 4 Penn State

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The No. 17 Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) didn’t buckle under the pressure of playing the most anticipated home game in program history in decades, if not just generations. Minnesota improved to 9-0 for the first time since going 13-0 in 1904 with a 31-26 victory against No. 4 Penn State (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten).

PJ Fleck came to Minnesota with his Row the Boat mentality, and it continues to pay dividends. Minnesota was the more effective offense from start to finish as Penn State’s defense played its worst game of the season. Penn State’s receivers couldn’t hold on to passes when Sean Clifford was able to get a good pass off, but the Gophers secondary continued to do their part to make sure Penn State couldn’t find big plays through the air, as the Gophers have done all season. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Tanner Morgan proved a connection with Rashod Bateman was one of the most reliable connections in the Big Ten, and Penn State couldn’t handle it. Bateman caught seven passes for 203 yards and a touchdown, with first downs on nearly all of his other receptions. Tyler Johnson also went for over 100 yards on seven receptions from Morgan, who ended his day with three touchdowns.

Minnesota’s touchdown drives were no fluke either. The Gophers scored two first-quarter touchdowns on a Penn State defense that had not allowed a first-quarter touchdown all season. Minnesota scored on drives of 95, 87, 61, and 75 yards, with two of those long touchdown drives coming off Penn State interceptions deep in the Minnesota end of the field. Antoine Winfield Jr. intercepted Clifford twice inside the Minnesota 10-yard line (one on a deep pass over the middle of the opening drive of the game and the other when Penn State was near the red zone and about to kick a field goal at the very least).

After Penn State cut the Minnesota lead down to five points with a Journey Brown touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the defense had their best stop of the game, giving Penn State one last chance to steal the win. But Clifford was intercepted a third time, this time by Jordon Howden just inside the end zone.

The outcome of the game may not have a dramatic impact in how the Big Ten championship picture plays out, because Minnesota still would have had a lead in the division race and Penn State’s Big Ten East odds likely would still be determined by what happens in a few weeks at Ohio State had Penn State won this game, but there is no taking away from the importance of this game for both teams. For Minnesota, the Gophers are now one giant step closer to playing in their first Big Ten Championship Game. Minnesota will own a two-game lead on either Iowa or Wisconsin, depending on which team wins that head-to-head matchup this afternoon. Minnesota still has to play both Iowa and Wisconsin, but having a minimum of a two-game lead in the division race with just three games remaining is a wonderful spot for Fleck and his program to be sitting.

Penn State, fresh off their highest ranking in the CFB Playoff rankings, will take a fall out of the top four but will still get a chance to settle the division race with Ohio State in two weeks. A spot in the New Years Six lineup still remains a likely destination for the Nittany Lions, but there is some work to do in order to re-enter a playoff spot.

Penn State’s next game will be at home next week against Indiana. The Hoosiers, who will travel to Happy Valley with seven wins already this season (7-2), will be coming off a bye week.

Minnesota goes on the road next week to play at No. 18 Iowa. The Hawkeyes will be coming off a road game at Wisconsin, a critical game in the Big Ten West Division standings. Minnesota may be about to row their boats right on down to Indianapolis.

Golden upset in the making? No. 17 Minnesota leading No. 4 Penn State 24-13 at halftime

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Don’t let the rankings fool you, because it looks like Minnesota has been the team ranked fourth in the nation by the College Football Playoff selection committee after one half of play. No. 17 Minnesota has simply been dominant against No. 4 Penn State after 30 minutes and they reach halftime fired up with a 24-13 lead on the Nittany Lions.

The first three minutes of the game could not have gone much better for Minnesota. The Gophers forced the first turnover of the game when Antoine Winfield Jr. picked off a deep ball thrown up for grabs by Sean Clifford at the Minnesota five-yard line. Minnesota cashed in on the turnover in a big way with Tanner Morgan completed a 66-yard pass to a streaking Radhod Bateman, who had nothing but daylight in front of him after a late defender missed a tackle on the sideline. It was the first touchdown allowed by Penn State in the first quarter this season, and it was a big one.

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons did not start the game for the Nittany Lions. according to the update from the broadcast, Parsons missed the start of the game for what was described as a “behavioral modification issue.” Parsons got on the field on Penn State’s second defensive series. Even with Parsons back on the field, Minnesota’s offense was not intimidated. After Journey Brown ran for a game-tying 45-yard touchdown for Penn State, Minnesota’s offense drove 87 yards for a second touchdown in the first quarter. A bubble screen from Morgan to Chris Autman-Bell went 21 yards to regain the lead, 14-7.

Winfield picked off Clifford again in the second quarter to kill a promising drive for Penn State that was one play from settling for a field goal at worst. A big return on the interception gave the confident Gophers offense good field position, and a 38-yard touchdown reception by Tyler Johnson gave Minnesota a 21-10 lead midway through the second quarter. After the defense forced a three-and-out on Penn State’s ensuing possession, Minnesota tacked on a field goal by Brock Walker to take a 14-point advantage, Penn State’s biggest deficit of the season.

Minnesota gets the ball to start the second half.