EAST LANSING, Mich. – Here are three takeaways from No. 6 Penn State’s 28-7 victory Saturday over Michigan State.
Clifford can play in the rain
For the first time since he became Penn State’s starting quarterback, Sean Clifford was challenged by rain and wind on a dreary day. But he performed as though the day was dry and clear. Clifford threw three first-half touchdown passes – two to tight end Pat Freiermuth, one to the fleet KJ Hamler – and carried the Nittany Lions to a 21-0 lead at the break. For the first two quarters, he completed 12-of-17 passes for 127 yards. He also had Dan Chisena open on a deep ball, but Chisena dropped the pass at the Michigan State 10. Conditions were horrible in the second half with the rain pouring down, and Clifford finished with 189 yards passing on 18 completions in 32 attempts.
Big plays by special teams were up and down
The Nittany Lions’ special teams stood out in the game. Shaka Toney blocked a 46-yard field goal attempt by Chris Coghlin to set up a 54-yard drive to the team’s third touchdown of the game. Dan Chisena fell on a muffed punt by Brandon Sowards at the Michigan State 6, and the Lions scored on the next play to make it 28-7 in the third quarter. Blake Gillikin punted eight times for a 44.2-yard average, five inside the 20-yard line, including two inside the 10. Probably the only blemish on the performance was Jake Pinegar’s first missed extra point of the season after 38 straight makes and 48 in a row dating back to last year.
The turnover advantage
Penn State claimed four turnovers from the Spartans, the biggest one being Chisena’s fumble recovery and the subsequent 6-yard touchdown pass from Clifford to Freiermuth. The Nittany Lions got a fumble recovery by linebacker Ellis Brooks, who caught the ball out of the air after defensive end Jayson Oweh sacked Brian Lewerke and the ball came out. The Lions also picked off two passes, one by freshman Marquis Wilson and the other by junior Jaquan Brisker. The Wilson pick came one play after Clifford threw an interception, the Lions’ only turnover of the game. Penn State is now plus-7 in turnover margin this season.