Late Field Goal Lifts No. 21 Northwestern Over Nittany Lions 23-21
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State Nittany Lions dropped possibly the biggest game in the James Franklin era, 23-21 to the No. 21 ranked Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday. Penn State fell to 7-3 on the season while Northwestern improved to 7-2. In a game that may have put the Nittany Lions into the top 25, the team fell a few plays short of possibly cracking the College Football Selection Committees top teams.
Northwester kicker Jack Mitchell, after going 0-2 on the day, kicked the game winning field goal with nine seconds left, to give Northwestern a big win after they had dropped two of their last three games.
“We weren’t able to play winning football at the end of the game,” said head coach James Franklin.
The Wildcats led 20-7 at the half, but were stymied all second half by a strong Penn State defensive effort. The Nittany Lions complied six sacks and Clayton Thorson was forced to leave the game in the first half and backup Zack Oliver was admirable in his efforts, throwing for one touchdown while also throwing an interception.
Justin Jackson proved to the Nittany Lions kryptonite, compiling 186 yards on 28 carries and torching the Nittany Lions for a few big plays. The passing attack was nothing to write home about for Northwestern, as they only threw for 169 yards on the day, but when they needed it most, they made the big plays to win the game.
Christian Hackenberg threw his first interception in six games, and couldn’t connect with anyone in the end zone, finishing the day with 21 completions on 40 attempts for 210 yards and the one turnover. Geno Lewis had the only touchdown throw on a botched play for the Nittany Lions. Saquon Barkley once again provided the offense for the Blue and White, rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns while catching six balls for 50 yards as well.
Penn State started off slow, amassing just nine total yards through the first 10 minutes. Northwestern took advantage, going up 13-0 before Penn State could make a move across mid-field. Barkley got the Nittany Lions back within six, scampering out of the wildcat formation for a seven yard score. The big blow came on the ensuing kickoff, as, instead of heading into the break down six, the Nittany Lions allowed a 96-yard kickoff return to Solomon Vault. The halftime score held up just ten minutes into the third quarter until Lewis connected with DaeSean Hamilton for a 32-yard score to pull within six.
Barkley’s rush early on in the fourth quarter gave Penn State the 21-20 lead that they held on to until Mitchell iced the game with nine seconds left. The outcome may have been different, however, if Carl Nassib who left the field with 14:50 left to play, was on the field for the final drive.
“Obviously the guy's leading the country in sacks," said Franklin. "All-time sack leader in school history. Not having him out there is significant."
Penn State gets a much needed buy week, before taking on Michigan in their annual White-Out game. Kick-off time has not been determined for the contest, which will take place on November 21st.
Jack Milewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.