Penn State fought hard and had themselves in position to win this game, but ultimately fell to No. 21 Northwestern by a final of 23-21. The Nittany Lions grabbed the lead late in the fourth quarter, but some extremely questionable clock management decisions led to the Lions giving the ball back to the Wildcats. Northwestern maneuvered their way into field goal range, and knocked home the field goal to put themselves up in the game. Penn State had a last-ditch effort with 7 seconds remaining, but fumbled away a lateral that wouldn't have led to anything anyway, and Northwestern walked out of Evanston with the win.
On the final drive, Grant Haley couldn't keep up with Austin Carr, who caught a 23 yard pass from backup quarterback Zack Oliver to put the Wildcats within field goal range. Despite missing two field goals and an extra point previously in the game, Jack Mitchell hit the 35-yard field goal to put his team ahead.
Saquon Barkley did absolutely everything he could to keep Penn State in this game, and he nearly won it for them (more on him below). Christian Hackenberg didn't look great to start this one, but improved as the game went on. The defense played well for the most part, but missed a lot of chances for big plays, including a dropped Grant Haley interception that could have sealed the win for Penn State. Something that shouldn't be lost in all of this though, was Carl Nassib breaking the single-season Penn State sack record. Congratulations, Carl.
3 Key Takeaways
1. Saquon Barkley is an unstoppable monster, probably from a planet adjacent to Leonard Fournette.
Saquon Barkley has been nothing short of a revelation for Penn State and for college football, in general. He accounted for 170 yards on Saturday (120 on the ground, 50 through the air) and 2 touchdowns. He did everything he could to win this game for the Nittany Lions. He deserves all the praise in the world.
2. Penn State's defense is not impenetrable.
Justin Jackson ran all over Penn State on Saturday. Whether it was a straight run right up the middle, or something to the outside, Jackson was able to do what he wanted, for the most part. Jackson went for 195 total yards on the day. And then, the biggest play of the day, the 23-yard pass to Carr, was a big-time blown coverage by Haley. It didn't look like Carr did much to shake him, but for whatever reason, Haley just got crossed up. It happens to everyone from time to time, we're just not used to seeing it happen to Haley. Still, it was a big moment that required perfect play from the defense.
Bob Shoop's unit is excellent, but it's not impenetrable.
3. This team needs to start fast.
This was the first game this season in which Penn State did not score first, and it hurt them. They played very poorly for most of the first three quarters of this game. The comeback was great, and they showed resiliency, but they simply aren't a team that can expect to win big games without being in control. Going down 13 or 14 points against Michigan or Michigan State won't end well for Franklin's squad.
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And with that, I would like to cordially welcome you to a long-overdue bye week.