This is one of those games where the recap could be 1,000 words or 100 words and the takeaway would be the same: Penn State survived. No matter how ugly, no matter the concerns moving forward, the most important part is that the Nittany Lions leave Purdue 1-0.
Penn State’s offense got off to a slow start, only managing a three-and-out on the first drive and punting the ball away again on the second drive. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions’ defense was a mixed bag, forcing the Boilermakers to punt on their first drive but surrendering a field goal on the second as the first quarter came to end.
The Nittany Lions got it together during the second quarter, though, outscoring the Boilermakers 21-7. The biggest swing came during the waning moments of the second quarter, with Zakee Wheatley forcing a fumble and Brenton Strange scoring on a broken play 67-yard play with just two seconds remaining to put Penn State up 21-10 going into the half.
The second half — not so great! Purdue scored quickly on their opening drive, clearing all doubt that this would be an easy Penn State victory. To make matters worse, the Nittany Lions were without Sean Clifford to start the half. Instead, true freshman Drew Allar took the field. Although Penn State’s offense sputtered out on the drive, Allar looked comfortable, and was a Tyler Warren drop from potentially leading the Nittany Lions to a scoring drive.
The rest of the way was a back-and-forth affair, with Penn State and Purdue trading the lead seven times throughout the entire game. The darkest moment? With Penn State up 28-24 with 8:29 to go, Cliffored missed a wide open Mitchell Tinsley, and instead hit Purdue safety Chris Jefferson. Jefferson ended up taking the arrant pass back for a touchdown — and vomited after — to give the Boiler makers a 31-28 lead.
If you looked at Penn State Twitter, all hope was lost. But Sean Clifford, folks, stepped up. With 2:22 left, the Nittany Lions got the ball back thanks to some big defensive plays, and Clifford did what he had to do. He was 6-of-7 on the final drive, eventually finding Keyvone Lee for a touchdown to put Penn State up 35-31 — a lead the defense wouldn’t surrender. Sacks from Johnny Dixon and Chop Robinson on the final drive secured the Penn State victory as the Nittany Lions moved to 1-0.
As stated above, there is way more that could be said about this game. The offense didn’t look great. The defense didn’t look great. Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done over the next month if Penn State wants to contend in the Big Ten. But just like last year, the Nittany Lions found a way to grind out a gutty win in a tough Big Ten environment. Over a long season — and especially this weekend — savor that, Penn State fans.