The Nittany Lions Earn First Win of Season Over Wolverines

Story posted November 28, 2020 in CommRadio, Sports by Zach Donaldson

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The fans in Happy Valley rejoice. The Penn State Nittany Lions have found their way back into the win column.

The Nittany Lions secured their first win of the season against Michigan 27-17, moving to 1-5, while the Wolverines drop to 2-4 as their struggles continue.

Penn State did everything it had to do to get into the win column for the first time this season. The Nittany Lions came out firing in the first half, won the turnover battle, played as a team on defense and complimentary football as a whole en route to the victory.

It’s head coach James Franklin’s first win in Ann Arbor in his career at Penn State, the program’s first since 2009 and only the fourth ever.

Franklin provided one of his most lively and passionate press conferences of the season following his team’s first win of the season.

“That was a battle of two very, very respected programs in a very unique, challenging and weird year,” Franklin said. “I think the biggest thing is, obviously, no turnovers. That's been the issue that we've been battling and working through all year long.”

For the first time all season, the Nittany Lions didn’t turn the ball over and won the turnover battle.

Sean Clifford started the game back under center for the Nittany Lions, and he didn’t let the fanbase down. The offense finally was able to gain some traction and click with Clifford running the show.

Clifford threw for 163 yards on 17-28 passing and scored a touchdown on the ground. But largely, Clifford's performance was of the successful variety because he recorded zero turnovers in a game for the first time this season.

“Sean Clifford is unbelievable guy, a tremendous football player and a tremendous leader. Sean’s a true warrior," defensive tackle PJ Mustipher said. “He's faced adversity this season, but he's never quit. He's never given up. He's led this team through the ups through the downs, and that's a testament to a true leader.”

“[Clifford] had a great performance today, and I know he's going to continue to play great football,” Mustipher said.

Outside of Clifford’s solid performance, the true freshmen for Penn State were the team’s biggest contributors on the afternoon. 267 of Penn State’s 411 total yards on offense were gained by true freshmen.

After the offense opted to receive the opening kickoff, Keyvone Lee led the opening drive making sure the offense capitalized. Lee tallied his only touchdown of day on the game’s outset drive, to go along with career highs of 22 carries for 134 yards. To put that in perspective, Lee came into the contest with 19 carries for 93 yards on the season.

Lee’s touchdown today makes it three games in a row where he’s found the endzone. This performance was a significant jump for Lee, who may have established himself as the No. 1 back in Penn State’s backfield moving forward.

Although the ideal way to start, Lee’s guided opening march wasn’t Penn State’s most impressive drive of the game. In the fourth quarter with the Wolverines lurking on the scoreboard, Will Levis punched in the touchdown from two yards out, capping off a 12 play, 75-yard drive that featured a pair of key third down conversions and chewed up exactly five minutes of clock.

It was Lee’s freshman counterpart, Caziah Holmes who was the feature back on that drive. Holmes finished the game with only ten carries for 34 yards, but he made some critical plays when it counted most.

Finally, Parker Washington continued his blazing hot start to his Penn State career, making catch after catch, moving the chains for the Penn State offense. The youngster finished with nine catches for 93 yards to propel Penn State’s passing attack.

Redshirt freshman cornerback Joey Porter Jr. is even impressed with the impact of the bunch.

“For any true freshman to come in and make an impact every game, that's huge,” Porter Jr. said. “A lot of people who aren’t even freshmen can't even do that. So, for [Lee] and Parker, I'm glad they got the opportunity to show [what they can do].”

It was a team win for the Penn State Nittany Lions. The offense played a clean, smart game, finished drives when it needed to and for the first time all year scored more points than the opposition.

The defense chipped in too, holding Michigan’s passing attack in check to a total of 112 yards, and 286 as an entire offense.

Questions surrounding Jim Harbaugh’s job security continue to swirl as the Wolverines keep plummeting downwards.

Meanwhile, things are trending upwards for the blue and white. Riding momentum off a victory for the first time this season, Penn State will look ahead to Rutgers to see if it is able to build off of the victory.


Zach Donaldson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email