Despite missing a myriad of starters — WR Jahan Dotson, LT Rasheed Walker, DE Arnold Ebiketie, DT Derrick Tangelo, LB Brandon Smith, LB Ellis Brooks, S Jaquan Brisker, and CB Tariq Castro-Fields — the Nittany Lions kept it close with Arkansas for a while. But in the end, the Razorbacks pulled away, winning 24-10.
It was a sloppy game to start. Both KJ Jefferson and Sean Clifford threw first quarter interceptions that stalled offensive drives as the defenses starred in the first half. Arkansas was first on the board though, punching in a three-yard run as zeroes struck on the first quarter. The Nittany Lions were quick to respond, as Clifford found a wide open KeAndre Lambert-Smith deep for a 42-yard score that tied the ballgame up 7-7. The following offensive series for Penn State saw them tack on three more points, with the Nittany Lions taking a 10-7 lead into the half.
The sturdy defense for Penn State didn’t quite follow into the second half, though. The Razorbacks punished the Nittany Lions on the ground, scoring on a 7-play, 75-yard drive that featured exclusively running plays. Arkansas stuck with the running game through the next two drives, which ended up yielding the Razorbacks 10 more points to make it 24-10.
Offensively, the Nittany Lions were stuck in the mud in the second half as they laid a goose egg. It was not Clifford’s best day — 15-for-33 for 198 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions — and without a Jahan Dotson to bail them out, the offense couldn’t consistently manufacture big plays.
In many ways, this bowl game was a nice representation of Penn State’s 2021 season: It started out much better than expected, showed some promise, but things really unraveled as time went on. Fortunately for us Penn State fans, we are helpless saps and there is always next year. Here’s to 2022.