UNIVERSITY PARK, P.A.— The post blowout loss blues were thwarted with Penn State sinking Minnesota 45-17 at Beaver Stadium Saturday night.
The Golden Gophers led 3-0 after the first quarter, but from there it was all Nittany Lions and in a big way.
Sean Clifford found the endzone four times and the Penn State offense was got the tight ends involved early and often to set the tone for the game.
Here’s my weekly 3-and-out after a successful White Out.
DEFENSE DIALS IT UP
Manny Diaz brought some pressure and it paid off in a big way. Diaz and the defense were in the Minnesota backfield early and often, making true freshman quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis uncomfortable. That of course was by design.
“Just attack him. Get off the ball fast and just play physical, try to get in the backfield,” Adisa Isaac said following the game. “We were playing vertical. We emphasized that all week, just playing vertical in the backfield. It was going to be a big TFL game. And we said that so we just had to just stick to the stick to the script and execute at a high level.”
And that script was followed nearly to a T with the Nittany Lions notching seven tackles-for-loss on the night and hurrying Kaliakmanis six times. Forcing that uncomfortableness led to the freshman going 9-for-22 for 122 yards with a touchdown and interception against Penn State.
The aggressiveness lended itself to some chunk plays for the Golden Gophers with star running back Mohamed Ibrahim rushing 30 times for 103 yards. Minnesota also had four passing plays of 25 yards or more.
All in all, it was a great bounce back game for a defense that got shredded by Michigan last week.
TIGHT LIKE A LION
There was an added emphasis on getting the tight ends involved against Minnesota and that they did.
The trio of Theo Johnson, Tyler Warren and Brenton Strange combined for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve said for a while now, the coaches have said that we’re confident,” Johnson said. “We have one of the best groups in the country. It just feels good to finally be able to show off to everybody else, felt good to see everybody out there making plays.”
Their performance sparked a 17-point second quarter, with Johnson and Warren’s touchdowns giving Penn State’s offense the boost it needed after a sluggish first quarter.
THE SEAN CLIFFORD EXPERIENCE:
Clifford’s night started with a chorus of boos during introductions, then continued into a dismal first quarter that featured two three-and-outs and an interception that set up a Minnesota field goal.
Sean Clifford was booed before the Minnesota game. @CoryGiger asked him about it after.
Clifford’s response was classy, and perfect. pic.twitter.com/LUm9VLqHqa
— Joe Smeltzer (@joesmeltzer775) October 23, 2022
That didn’t phase him. Not that much truly does for the fourth-year signal caller.
“Realistically, we have a passionate fan base, Clifford said. “I understand that. They can think what they want to think. But I’m gonna focus on what I can do on the field. I’m gonna give my heart and my soul every single time I step on that field, and nobody can take that away from me. So, I know that for a fact. But yeah, I’m just gonna focus on the program, the people on our team, and then that’s about it.”
After that first quarter though, it was all Clifford and all Penn State as the Nittany Lions took control and ran away with the game.
“We struggled a little bit in beginning of the game, but then once we kind of got in the groove, I think our offense was looking really good today,” Johnson said.
It was the type of performance that’s become the norm for Clifford: looking horrid followed by flashes of greatness.
That Clifford did this while fighting through a shoulder injury makes it all the more impressive. For now, Clifford is the hero… for another week, at least.
JAMES FRANKLIN’S HOT SEAT METER
Boos filled the stadium as he was announced as the head coach ahead of the game. Of course, the fans aren’t the ones who make the decision to fire Franklin, or he’d have been gone a long time ago.
Right now, the meter sits at off though that is sure to change based on the result of next week’s game