Only the optimists among the fanbase envisioned a season like this happening. Coming off a 7-win season the year prior, and 11 combined wins in two years, the Nittany Lions had everything to prove and not a lot of evidence to show that they’d be able to prove. Yet, prove they did.
Penn State capped off its fourth 10-win season under James Franklin by reclaiming the Land-Grant Trophy on Saturday. Like seemingly all games between the Lions and the Spartans, the game had the ups and downs you’d come to expect, where Penn State started slow, took off, slowed down again, with Michigan State closing the game to within five, then took control once more late in the fourth to put the game away for good.
Sean Clifford seemingly saved his best for last. On his senior day, the quarterback had one his best performance of a long tenure, throwing four touchdowns on 200 yards passing, completing 79 percent of his passes, and generally making good decisions to keep the offense going. With one game left in his career with the Nittany Lions, Clifford will look to add to his record breaking career. Seven more touchdowns puts him at No. 2 behind J.T. Barrett in the “responsible for” category, and six more touchdown passes would tie him with Drew Brees for passing touchdowns. Both look like long shots depending on competition, but being fourth in the Big Ten in both categories is nothing to scoff at.
The Lions will now await their bowl destination, in hopes of another New Year’s Six bid. With losses to Clemson, LSU, and Oregon ahead of them, Penn State is guaranteed a top 10 finish in the College Football Playoff rankings, putting themselves in great position to achieve the milestone.
Stats and Storylines
48 - Number of yards traveled KeAndre Lambert-Smith’s touchdown pass.
160 - Combined yards by Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen in this game. They have combined for 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.
9 - Number of games where Penn State scored 30 points or more this season. Vast improvement over a season ago.