Penn State entered Jordan-Hare Stadium and came away with a statement win over an SEC team. Auburn’s “orange-out” resembled more of a creamsicle by the end of the game, as the Nittany Lions ran all over the Tigers
Here are the biggest takeaways from Penn State’s 41-12 win over Auburn:
Penn State flexes its ground attack
Penn State’s running game — or lack thereof — was a major weakness last season, and a big reason why a team led by a hobbled Sean Clifford fell off in the back half of the season.
The Nittany Lions have stuck with the same shotgun, RPO offense they deployed in 2021. This time, though, they can run the ball and run it well.
Freshman running back Nick Singleton arrived in a big way against Ohio last week. His 10 carry, 179 yard, two touchdown performance was electrifying, but there were doubts about if Singleton could produce against a much better Auburn defense.
Singleton certainly came to play, and he didn’t have to carry the load by himself. Singleton made his first career start, leading the team with 10 carries, 124 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow freshman Kaytron Allen had nine carries, 52 yards and two scores of his own.
In total, Penn State ran 39 times for 245 yards and five touchdowns — an average of 6.3 yards a pop.
The run-pass ratio, 39 runs to 23 passes, was an absolute dream. A persistent, dangerous running game is going to make this team a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Sean Clifford plays smart and tough
Sean Clifford isn’t the most beloved player in Happy Valley. The polarizing quarterback has shouldered the blame for some tough losses the past few years, and now is being run out of town by freshman Drew Allar.
Games like this, however, show that Clifford is not only a good player, but a tough son of a gun.
On his first drive, the sixth-year quarterback took a violent hit. Clifford took it like a champ and welcomed contact the rest of the day.
Clifford finished 14-of-19 for 178 yards with 15 yards and a score on the ground. Most importantly, he made good decisions and avoided turning the ball over.
Don’t forget about the offensive line
Of course, the offensive success would never have been possible if it weren’t for a banner day by the offensive line.
Tackle Olu Fashanu and center Juice Scruggs have been fantastic all year and are a big reason why the running backs have had such open lanes to run through.
No complaints from the pass protection front either. Sean Clifford stayed upright in the pocket, as the Tigers defense couldn’t manage a single QB hit.
Auburn only had three tackles for loss, as well. The lack of disruption is a huge testament to Penn State’s maulers up front.
Manny Diaz loves two things as a defensive coordinator: pressure and turnovers. His defense provided him with both.
The Nittany Lions certainly won the turnover battle, as they recovered two of their three forced fumbles and added a pair of interceptions.
The biggest thing Penn State did was protect its end zone. Auburn was forced to settle for a pair of short field goals and turned it over twice inside the Penn State 30-yard line. Had any of those drives ended in touchdowns, it could’ve been a very different final score.
Six sacks, nine quarterback hits and 11 tackles for loss certainly didn’t make life easy for the Tigers. Neither did solid coverage all day by the secondary.
Penn State’s group of athletes on defense fits perfectly in the attacking scheme that Diaz runs. The front seven is scary fast and has the depth to constantly rush with fresh legs and bring fresh pressure.
Linebacker U is alive and well
When thinking about #11 in blue and white, what names come to mind? LaVar Arrington? Micah Parsons? Abdul Carter might soon join that club.
Freshman linebacker Abdul Carter dons the legendary number 11 and has looked a lot like those legendary Penn State linebackers in his first two games this year.
Like Parsons, Carter shows elite speed and effort at the position, flying around the field. Carter’s speed broke into the backfield for a sack, TFL and a forced fumble to go along with six tackles. His ability to constantly be around the ball is impressive.
Sophomore Curtis Jacobs was also dynamic, adding a sack of his own and threatening with his speed.
The sheer athleticism in the linebacker room gives Penn State serious weapons in both run and pass coverage.