Indiana played like the 7-2 team that it was coming into Happy Valley. It took a team effort, coaches and players, to hold off a late Hoosier comeback. Journey Brown had 100 yards rushing on 21 carries and Devyn Ford added 38 on 8 carries for the Lions but it was the tough yards by the quarterbacks that put the team over the hump.
Late in the first quarter with the Hoosiers leading 14-10, Sean Clifford kept the ball and ran for 38 yards and a touchdown to take a lead the would never be relinquished.
As with many long runs, there was some nice blocking downfield. Devyn Ford (28) sprinted in front of Clifford to make a key block. Had Ford not made that effort, Clifford may not have gotten to the end zone, or at the very least, would have taken a hard hit. In the end zone, Mac Hippenhammer (12) did a nice job of getting between Bryant Fitzgerald (31) and where Clifford was heading.
With great music, sometimes it isn’t just about the notes you play, but the notes that you don’t play. Jahan Dotson (5) made a wise decision not to make an unnecessary block, one that could have been called for a penalty.
The touchdown by Clifford capped a 31-point first quarter for both teams. Over the next two quarters, they combined for 13 points as the Lions opened up a 27-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Indiana put together two long scoring drives to cut the lead to 3 with 10:45 to play. First, it was a field goal after a 14 play drive. Then an 11 play, 91-yard drive had the Lions on their heels, with a collective lump building in the throats of the 100,000 plus fans cheering inside Beaver Stadium.
Sean Clifford needed to guide the team down the field for some points to halt the Hoosier momentum and give the defense a chance to regroup. He led an 18 play, 75 yard drive that ended with a touchdown with under two minutes to play.
After a first down run of 13 yards by Journey Brown on the first series of plays, Penn State faced a 3rd and 9. Clifford took the ball himself, making his first run since the 38 yard touchdown in the first quarter.
A pass to Pat Freiermuth moved the sticks again to the Indiana 33. With time winding down it became clear to coach James Franklin that a field goal, to increase the lead from 3 to 6, would not be much help to his team. They were committed to what could be a game-sealing touchdown.
Backup quarterback Will Levis entered the game to take the snap on 3rd and 2 from the 25. The Hoosiers stopped him a yard short. On fourth down, Rahne called Levis’ number again. This time it worked out behind the strength of a great push on the right side of the offensive line.
The play moved the ball further into Indiana territory and kept the clock running. With just over 3 minutes to play, Clifford ran for 6 yards on a 3rd and 1. On 3rd and goal from the 4 he ran the ball again, this time coming up a yard short.
Franklin didn’t hesitate to keep the offense on the field and Ricky Rahne didn’t hesitate to give his quarterback the ball one last time.
This time Clifford went right over the center for a touchdown and 10 point lead with under 2 minutes to play.
Indiana made it interesting, driving 66 yards for a late field goal. Jesse Luketa recovered an onside kick with a handful of seconds on the clock. One quick kneel by Clifford ran out the remainder of the clock.
- Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney each recorded a sack on a day that was tough to get to the quarterback. Indiana kept the passes quick to neutralize the pass rush as much as possible.
- Tariq Castro-Fields led the Lions with 8 tackles, 6 solo. Micah Parsons had 7 tackles, a pass break up and a forced fumble.
- KJ Hamler had 2 catches for 52 yards before leaving the game with what appeared to be a head injury. Hamler was seen talking to his mom on the sideline and while it was serious enough that he did not return to the game, it appeared that Hamler was able to communicate. He stayed on the sideline instead of going to the locker room.
- Penn State lost the yardage battle 462 to 371. Each team had 3 punts, Blake Gillikin averaged 42.7 per kick, Indiana averaged 34.3. The punt battle favored the Lions and so did the scoreboard.