Penn State has faced one of the hardest 3-game opening stretches in the country, and is 3-0. Auburn came to play, and a tip of the cap to the Tigers, but the Lions would not be denied.
The Lions started with the ball, and after a promising drive, missed out on a 4th and 1 conversion, which Auburn ultimately turned into a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. After a couple punts, the offense went back to work, and methodically moved down the field, including a key screen pass to Keandre Lambert-Smith, a huge completion to Theo Johnson got the Lions down to the 4 yard line, and Sean Clifford connected with Jahan Dotson to put PSU up 7-3 near the end of the first quarter.
Unfortunately, Auburn responded immediately with a TD of their own to make it 10-7 just a couple minutes into the second quarter. A few more punts - and a very questionable intentional grounding call combined with Penn State literally being robbed of a down and having to punt - and the Lions got back to it, driving 91 yards in just under 7 minutes, ending the drive with a TD pass to Brenton Strange, and a 14-10 lead.
On the next drive, Brandon Smith was thisclose to an interception - and possible pick-six - but ultimately couldn’t come down with the ball. The Lions tried to drive for some more points, but with pressure in his face, Sean Clifford’s deep lob was intercepted to close out the half.
The very first play of the second half resulted in an Auburn fumble, and Derrick Tangelo fell on the ball at the 30 yard line. Less than 2 minutes later, Tyler Warren kept the ball out of the wildcat formation, leapt over the line, and put PSU up 21-10.
Auburn was not going to just roll over and take it, however, and put together a 15-play drive, including 12 rushing plays, to close the gap to 21-17. Penn State drove the ball well again, but when the offense sputtered, the Lions opted for a fake punt on 4th and 1, which PJ Mustipher definitively got - until he was called short on an absolutely terrible spot. Auburn drove, and facing a 4th and 1 from the 26, opted to kick a 43-yard field goal to make it a 21-20 Penn State lead just inside the 4th quarter.
The fourth quarter was tense, to say the least. The Lions erupted on offense once more, including Jon Lovett, Brenton Strange, and Parker Washington all ripping off big plays, and #9 for Auburn being ejected, before Noah Cain finally punched the ball in to give Penn State a much needed 28-20 lead with 10:48 left in the game.
From there, it was a defensive battle. Both teams brought the lumber on defense, but Auburn was able to put together just enough plays to make the game interesting. On one play, Bo Nix ran out of bounds, and Brandon Smith’s finger sweat touched his jersey, causing Nix to pull his best Neymar impersonation, and ultimately drawing a late-hit penalty. The Tigers got down to the PSU 10 yard line, but the defense held firm with a goal line stand for the ages, and the Lions took over with 3:08 left in the game.
A first down (thanks to a defensive pass interference penalty) later, and Auburn got the ball back with just 45 seconds to go in the game. A few plays later, and Bo Nix’s final pass attempt was broken up by Jaquan Brisker, and Penn State held on for a 28-20 win.
This game was, in a word, cathartic. It had been 2 years since a White Out was held, and every ounce of the crowd’s energy was needed to help lift the Lions over the pesky Tigers. Serious props to Auburn, they came to play today. Ultimately the Penn State offense was able to do just enough against a strong Tiger defense, and the PSU defense was able to ride the crowd’s energy to a top 25 win.
Penn State is 3-0, having played one of the toughest schedules in the country thus far, and have the White Out to thank for their latest victory. Great work, Penn State fans, you brought the noise, and ultimately, the win.