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‘1-0’: Franklin, Clifford React to Penn State win

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Sean Clifford

Penn State had momentum at halftime against Auburn, but a 14-6 lead is hardly insurmountable. 

Although this game was bigger than most, coach James Franklin’s halftime message was the same as it always is; play the game like the score is 0-0.

“One play at a time,” Franklin told Brian Tripp in Penn State’s postgame show streamed on Facebook Live. 

In the second half, a tight game turned into a slaughter.

Penn State outscored Auburn 17-0 in the third quarter to open up a 31-6 lead and send Auburn fans to the exits by the start of the last 15 minutes.

The Big Ten team ended up beating the SEC team 41-12.

Penn State forced two turnovers in the third quarter to add to the two it created in the first half.

The takeaways were “the biggest difference” in the game for Franklin. 

“We have to make sure we’re getting points off the turnovers,” Franklin said. 

Penn State didn’t get any points off either of its first-half turnovers but scored on both ensuing drivers following the ones in the second half.

The first such takeaway– a fumble forced by Ji’Ayir Brown and recovered by Chop Robinson— led to the Nick Singleton show starting. 

Singleton, the fabulous five-star, took the first play of the ensuing drive 53 yards to the Auburn 5-yard line and ran it into the end zone two plays later. 

Singleton added another touchdown before the end of the day and finished with 124 yards on 10 carries.

He wasn’t the only freshman runner who had a good day. 

Kaytron Allen also scored two touchdowns. Allen averaged 5.8 yards per carry, gaining 52 yards on nine touches. 

Collectively, Penn State ran the ball 39 times for 245 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry. 

Not a bad day.

“Our ability to run the ball right now on offense and be more balanced has really helped us,” Franklin said. 

It helped quarterback Sean Clifford significantly. 

Clifford hasn’t had an easy go of it the past two seasons, and Penn State’s inability to run the ball effectively last year contributed to that. 

For Franklin, a more balanced offense makes life easier for his quarterback.

“I think in years and games past, there was too much on Sean Clifford’s shoulders,” he said.

Clifford, who finished the day 14-19 with 178 yards, also rushing for the game’s first score, moving into second on Penn State’s all-time passing list and taking one of the biggest hits on a quarterback this season on the game’s first drive, was understandably delighted after the win.

“Great stadium,” Clifford told CBS’ Jenny Dell after the game. “Great atmosphere. Gotta give it to Auburn. Really great team. They brought it, too.”

Most people would agree that Auburn has a great atmosphere. 

The “great team” part is questionable, especially after Saturday. 

Nonetheless, getting a 29-point win in an SEC stadium is impressive, and it’s not something Franklin takes for granted.

“There hasn’t been many, if any, Big Ten teams who come to the SEC and get a win like this during the regular season,” Franklin said. “So I’m really proud of our guys.”

When Dell asked Clifford if Penn State’s team had “championship DNA,” he used arguably his head coach’s most famous saying.

“1-0,” Clifford said. “That’s all that matters.”

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