It was an ugly day in Happy Valley, with the after effects of Hurricane Ian making its way through State College for 3.5 hours of non-stop rain. While Penn State was able to overcome the weather to defeat Northwestern 17-7, it certainly wasn’t an impressive affair.
From the start, the Nittany Lions felt the impact of the soggy day. Nicholas Singleton fumbled on Penn State’s second series of the game, while Sean Clifford threw an interception on the series after, foreshadowing what was going to be a sloppy day for the offense. While the Nittany Lions eventually found the end zone twice in the opening 30 minutes — one for Brenton Strange and one for Singleton — it was, in a word, messy.
Fortunately, the Penn State defense took advantage of the wetness too, forcing three Northwestern turnovers in the first half and holding the Wildcats scoreless heading into the break.
The second half was filled with Penn State just simply trying to run the ball — and, of course, more fumbles. Keyvone Lee and Kaytron Allen each joined Singleton on the fumble party, allowing Northwestern to hang around for essentially the entire game. The third quarter specifically got close, with Ryan Hilinksi hooking up with Jacob Gill for a 47-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 with 2:10 left in the third. But Penn State answered with a 38-yard field goal from Jake Pinegar early in the fourth quarter, giving the Nittany Lions a two-score lead that they were able to sit on the rest of the game.
Here’s the thing: this was a bad game. Penn State had five turnovers to Northwestern’s three, and made what should have been a comfortable victory an annoyingly close victory, akin to the 2015 Army game. While there’s certainly something to say for the torrential downpour that the game was played in, you can’t be happy as a Penn State fan about the end result of the game today — especially offensively. The running backs coughed the ball up way too much. The wide receivers dropped too many catchable passes. And Sean Clifford did not look like a sixth-year senior.
The bye week is coming at the right time for the Nittany Lions, who will start a massive three-game stretch of Michigan-Minnesota-Ohio State in two weeks. Weather issues aside, there’s a lot to work on for Penn State over the bye week.