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Quick Takeaways from Penn State’s big win over Michigan State

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Penn State heads into November at 8-0 and with a top-five ranking likely coming its way.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

1) Sean Clifford for looked really, really, really good for a while.

Considering that he had to battle the weather in East Lansing on Saturday (shocking!), Sean Clifford was pretty darn good against the Spartans in the first half. He made some great decisions and at briefly seemed unstoppable through the air. At one point on Saturday, Clifford was 15 for 21 through the air and ultimately ended up at 18 for 32. Obviously, you don’t want to see that type of drop off.

The second half, Clifford was not as sharp and had some poor throws, possibly because of wet balls or perhaps he just fell out of a groove. Clifford was the victim of several drops which would’ve raised his completion percentage by quite a bit. That being said, he only made really one bad decision in the game.

Now, his one bad decision is one that I’m not sure we’ll ever understand. Penn State should bury that part of tape in the ground along with the 2015 Temple game. It should be brought up once, discussed, and then never talked about it again because it was an extremely poor decision.

2) Penn State’s defense was outstanding for the most part

In the past, Penn State’s defense always seemed to find ways to give up weird touchdowns to Michigan State. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions defense remained one of the best in the country and dominated the Spartans for almost the entirety of the game. Outside of one big play, Penn State kept the Spartans limited in the chunk play category The defensive line wasn’t overly dominant early in the game but still did enough to keep Michigan State’s quarterbacks off balance and force plenty of bad passes.

Penn State gave up just 265 total yards, including just 83 yards on the ground. The Penn State defense had to carry the team in the second half and did just that, it was another tremendous performance by Brent Pry’s group.

3) Feed the Moose!

Pat Freiermuth was on fire on Saturday afternoon. The sophomore tight end had one of his best games as a Nittany Lion, bringing in five receptions for 60 yards and three touchdowns. Freiermuth has quietly put up a tremendous season, hauling in 25 receptions for 291 yards and seven touchdowns.

4) Feels like a ton of players were banged up, but at least there’s a bye week.

Penn State went into Spartan Stadium and got its first win in a decade. But it did feel like we saw a good deal of players get nicked up at some point. Among those to be injured at one point or another were Sean Clifford, John Reid, Trent Gordon and Noah Cain. The good news for Penn State is that next week is a bye week and it’ll be able to get healthy ahead of a big game against an undefeated and 8-0 Minnesota team in Minneapolis on November 9.

5) Special teams were very special

It was a near-perfect day out of Penn State’s special teams on Saturday. Everyone on special teams performed well, especially senior punter Blake Gillikin. Gillikin had some rough patches during the early part of this season, but since the Iowa game has been arguably the best punter in the nation. Gillkin was a machine against the Spartans, consistently pinning the them deep with five of his eight punts landing inside the 20.