Penn State football is still undefeated after its 28-21 win over Michigan in Saturday night’s White Out game. The Nittany Lions got up early on the Wolverines and were able to close the game out to get to 7-0 on the season and 4-0 in the Big Ten. Here are our three takeaways from Saturday night’s action.
1. Penn State’s offense started hot ...
The NIttany Lions moved the ball with ease early in the game, striking for the first three touchdowns of the game. Redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford was making the correct reads and dropping perfectly placed passes all over the field in the early part of the game.
He hit Pat Freiermuth in the corner of the end zone for the game to get the Nittany Lions on the scoreboard in the first quarter. He was 5-of-7 for 61 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter and carried that performance into the second quarter. Clifford rushed for a touchdown on the first play of the quarter and dropped another dime into the hands of K.J. Hamler.
The redshirt sophomore was spectacular up until that point.
2. ... then it stalled, again
After his second passing touchdown, and third overall, the Penn State offense sputtered. It couldn’t move the ball on the Wolverines and struggled to close the first half. Part of the blame can fall with the running back rotation, which led to the team’s leading rusher, true freshman Noah Cain, seeing zero carries in the first half.
The offensive lull was similar to the one the Nittany Lions had when they played Purdue this season. The offense exploded early in both games before completely stalling out for a long stretch. On Saturday night, Penn State opened the third quarter the same way it did against Purdue, struggling to move the ball with its quarterback missing open receivers.
The lull didn’t cost the Nittany Lions a win, but it has to be concerning for Penn State that it’s consistently happening.
3. Penn State’s defensive line struggled to get pressure
The Nittany Lions have one of the best defensive line groups in the country, but it struggled to hinder Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson Saturday night. The Nittany Lions had one sack with none coming from the defensive line.
The Wolverines have an elite offensive line, but Penn State’s bunch needed to show why it’s so highly touted and failed to do so. They were stuffed for most of the game, giving Patterson plenty of time to find open receivers, keeping plays — and drives — alive. That kept Michigan in the game when it had the ball and forced Penn State’s offense into a position where it needed to respond.
Had Penn State been able to pressure Patterson, it would’ve been in a much better position down the stretch of the game.