The Penn State Nittany Lions may have won their game against the Northwestern Wildcats, but it was not easy. While factoring in the heavy downpour of rain, the defense was the only strong point of the team. Penn State moves on to a 5-0 record, but their offensive struggles will need to be fixed before their next stretch of games.
The number of turnovers throughout the game was the biggest issue for Penn State. Quarterback Sean Clifford may have only thrown one interception, but the offense fumbled four times. Running back Nick Singleton fumbled the ball two times causing him to not play the majority of the second half. Singleton has been standing out in all the other games this season. Northwestern’s defense does deserve credit for forcing two of the fumbles with hard hits by their helmets to knock the ball out. While the rain can be blamed for the turnovers, Penn State cannot let the weather be the reason they lose. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, Northwestern’s offense also had multiple turnovers. Penn State must learn from these offensive struggles moving forward. Turning over the ball in their next set of games can be a major reason for a future loss.
Penn State’s offense rushed for 220 yards according to ESPN. While this is more than the week before when they faced Central Michigan, it was not all positive. The biggest issue with the team’s rushing attempts was the number of times they would lose yards on early downs. This put too much pressure on Clifford to make passes on multiple third and longs in the rain. Due to Singleton’s two turnovers in the first half, he did not enter the game again until near the end of the fourth quarter. The fumbles prevented any momentum for the run game.
Clifford attempted 20 passes in the game and only completed ten. While it was expected that the Nittany Lions would run the ball in this weather, some of these missed throws were due to poor timing by Clifford. This is something the quarterback needs to fix moving forward. He should have thrown the ball away on his interception. Instead, he threw the ball with no Penn State player in the range, only a Wildcat. Despite only throwing one interception, he came close to throwing more. Penn State lucked out with the ball being wet and heavy, resulting in Northwestern’s defense not completing the interception. Decision making by Clifford was a large factor in the offensive struggles and that will need to be fixed after their bye week.
Penn State’s defense was the reason they were able to maintain their lead throughout the game. Cornerback Joey Porter Jr. saved Penn State from letting Northwestern score a touchdown late in the game. This caused Northwestern to go for it on 4th down, which they did not get. Defensive tackle, Hakeem Beamon then blocked back-to-back throws in the fourth quarter, causing Penn State to get another takeaway on downs, sealing the game. The defense also forced two fumbles and caught an interception, getting their offense back on the field. The Nittany Lions’ defense needs to keep up with their strength to help the team win future games.
The offensive line was very strong as well and if they continue to play how they played today, they should be able to hold off other Big Ten defensive lines. Clifford was not sacked once, and his best throw to wide receiver Parker Washington was because he had the time to get set. The offensive line also did well blocking for the inside runs. As long as Penn State can fix their offensive struggles seen against Northwestern, they should be able to compete against other Big Ten teams.
The Nittany Lions get a bye week this week. They will next play again on October 15th at Michigan.
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