“Preseason JP Poll top 10 Penn State” is how I would prefer them to be introduced— Josh Pate (@LateKickJosh) September 17, 2022
The Preseason JP Poll Top 10 Penn State Nittany Lions (a bit of a mouthful, ain’t) went down to an SEC stadium, one never visited by another Big Ten team, and took the home team to the woodshed in one of the more convincing wins in the James Franklin era. In fact, it may be one of the more convincing road wins, period, in a very long time. A sampling of such victories, brought to you by the Black Shoe Diaries Slack Channel:
1) 2012 at Iowa
2) 2008 at Wisconsin
3) 2009 at Michigan
4) 2005 at Illinois
5) 2019 at Michigan State
5b) 2018 at Pitt
6) 2019 at Maryland
There are plenty of others, but you can easily see how this win stacks up with those. A 3-point favorite on the road, the Nittany Lions were expected to win by the oddsmakers, and some of the population, but no one expected the kind of game where Jordan-Hare stadium would empty out midway through the third quarter.
Auburn took an early 3-0 lead, and that was the last time the Tigers would have a lead, as the Nittany Lions quickly answered the score with one of their own, a touchdown on the ground by Sean Clifford. Speaking of the quarterback, he took a nasty hit on their first drive that likely set the tone for the rest of the game.
That would be Auburn’s biggest highlight, as it was all Penn Sate from there on out. Clifford would get back up, drive the Lions down the field, and have an efficient game where he didn’t need to much to help the Lions get the win.
The reason Clifford didn’t need to do much was simple. The Penn State running game took off, led once more by Nicholas Singleton and his 124 rushing yards, and the 245 total yards on the ground were more than enough to not only keep Auburn at bay. More than that, the five touchdowns on the ground put the game away right quick, as Auburn had no answer for the four-headed monster of Singleton, Kaytron Allen, Devyn Ford, and Keyvone Lee.
The offense was not the only impressive part of this game. The defense came away with a whopping four takeaways, and all the little things you saw in the first two games came to fruition in this one. The hurries turned into sacks and tackles for loss, all the dropped interceptions in the previous two weeks turned into actual interceptions, plus a couple of fumbles to boot. The Manny Diaz defense we were promised was on full display on Saturday, and if they keep performing at this level, it’s going to be a fun year on that side of the ball.
Yes, the defense had some lapses in allowing some big plays, especially on third and a mile, but they were quite good at allowing yards without allowing points. Four takeaways is probably not realistic, but the level of disruption they created in this game is something to look forward to as the season continues.
All in all, this was one of the most satisfying wins in recent memory, and after the nervousness surrounding this game, after many wondered whether this team would resemble the one that started 5-0 last year or the one that finished 2-6, we can take a sigh of relief for now, as it’s looking like we might have a pretty good team on our hands.
Stats and Storylines
245 - The aforementioned rushing yards on the game. Penn State made it a point to improve on that aspect of the game during the offseason, and early dividends are proving positive!
0 - Turnovers committed by the offense in the game. After the horrible pick-six in the Purdue contest, the offense has played clean football for eight quarters.
119 - Rushing yards by the Auburn offense, 39 of which came from Tank Bigsby. The biggest fear coming into this game was whether the Lions could contain the Auburn rush. Contain they did.
Tough road ahead - Just kidding! Michigan is the toughest contest on the road remaining. And, while Indiana always plays weird games against Penn State at home, one has to feel pretty good about the remaining road slate on the heels of this one.