Penn State Defeats Purdue 35-7 on Homecoming Weekend
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An explosive start to Saturday’s match against Purdue proved to be the deciding factor, as the 12th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Boilermakers 35-7 on homecoming weekend in Beaver Stadium.
Coming off of a 59-0 stomping of Maryland in College Park last week, Penn State was looking to ride that momentum to another easy victory over 1-3 Purdue.
The Nittany Lions had all that momentum right out of the gate, scoring touchdowns on each of their first four drives. Long scoring receptions from KJ Hamler and Jahan Dotson highlighted a potent offensive attack, as Penn State jumped out to a 28-0 lead after just 16 minutes of play. Purdue was forced to punt on each of its first five drives, and the Nittany Lions seemed well on their way to another victory.
“Our offense is really meshing well together,” quarterback Sean Clifford said. “Every position is starting to get relaxed. The tougher the test, [the more] the team keeps answering the call.”
Then, for a brief moment, it looked like the Boilermakers would be able to shift momentum their way. On a rare miscommunication, Clifford tossed a long interception midway through the second quarter: only his second pick thrown this year. The interception set up a 5-play, 62-yard Purdue scoring drive, capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Plummer to receiver Amad Anderson Jr.
As it turned out, the interception-turned-touchdown didn’t do anything to kickstart the Purdue offense. But it completely killed Penn State’s momentum.
The Nittany Lions didn’t punt once in the first half yet punted on every single possession of the third quarter: two of which occurred after three-and-outs. After putting up 275 total yards and 13 first downs in the first half, Penn State recorded just 42 yards and three first downs in the third quarter.
Second-quarter special teams miscues like a missed 35-yard field goal off the foot of Jake Pinegar and a muffed punt by Jonathan Sutherland only further continued the offensive woes.
“We kind of stalled out,” Clifford said. “Not because we weren’t executing—we were definitely executing, but we weren’t finishing. That’s on me. That’s on everybody.”
Finally, after over 30 scoreless minutes had passed, Penn State broke the silence with a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Noah Cain. That score was set up by a 27-yard scramble from Cain on the play before: the Nittany Lions’ longest rush of the game.
Despite an inconsistent offensive performance, Penn State won handily, as the defense was stellar all day long. The Nittany Lions applied constant pressure, sacking Plummer 10 times. Junior Shaka Toney was especially disruptive, taking down Plummer on three separate occasions in the first half.
“Not only does [Toney] have great quickness and speed, but he’s also a very, very smart football player,” head coach James Franklin said. “Once he gets your cadence, he’s able to anticipate and combine his athletic ability with his mental approach to the game. We’re very pleased with him.”
The absence of starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar and star receiver Rondale Moore was clearly a factor, as Purdue generated just 104 yards of offense: the fewest of any opponent that the Nittany Lions have faced this year. Purdue’s rushing game struggled against Penn State’s dominant defensive performance on the ground, as the Boilermakers finished with -19 rushing yards.
For the fifth time in five games, Penn State held its opponent to 14 points or fewer. The Nittany Lions are the only team in FBS to accomplish that feat in every game they’ve played this season.
“We’re playing championship level defense right now,” Franklin said. “We’ve been doing that for a couple weeks.”
Though the defense is playing at its highest caliber, it’s clear that the offense needs to be more dependable, especially now more than ever. Penn State enters a brutal stretch, as the Nittany Lions’ next three games are all against ranked opponents: at Iowa, vs. Michigan and at Michigan State. Clifford and company will need to consistently play at a high level in order for the Nittany Lions come out of that troublesome stretch unscathed.
“At this level, it’s about consistency,” Franklin said. “You have certain players or certain programs that are able to do it from time to time, but the great programs and the great players are able to do it consistently. All those guys in the locker room have a lot of talent, and they can show you that the best programs and the best players are able to do it at a high level.”
DJ Bauer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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