Penn State throws a chance to beat its measuring stick [column] | Soccer

STATE COLLEGE — James Franklin only used the word “turnover” four times during his postgame press conference here on Saturday.

A wise over/under figure would have been three times higher.

Penn State committed four turnovers — all to quarterback Sean Clifford — that ruined an upset bid and led to a 44-31 loss to Ohio State in the Nittany Lions’ annual measuring stick game at Beaver Stadium.

“In the first half we were able to overcome the turnovers and stay in the game and fight,” Franklin said.

“But you can’t turn the ball around that many times against that type of opponent and think you’re going to pull it off. That’s something we’ve, for the most part, done a good job of this year, but we don’t. we didn’t do today.

“The game begins and ends with turnovers.”

The second-seeded Buckeyes went 7-0, but without what most would consider a high-quality win. Will this savage and complicated battle be taken as a confirmation of this argument?

Penn State was down 10-0 in less than 10 minutes, before having a possession that didn’t end in an interception. Still, he was leading 14-10, 14-13 at halftime and 21-16 after a messy and epic theatrical touchdown with 9:26 remaining.

The Nittany Lions had more rushing and passing yards, had more first downs, were better on third down and went 20 more plays. Penn State coordinators Mike Yurcich on offense and Manny Diaz on defense came up with new things, called creative and varied plays and seemed, for the most part, to be winning the chess game.

But when the Buckeyes got the ball, they kept it.

Penn State’s first possession ended with Clifford bouncing a ball off the arms of a defensive lineman, high in the air, and then into the arms of DE Zach Harrison of the Buckeyes.

It seemed like the most defensible of Clifford’s three picks and a backpack fumble, but Franklin didn’t defend it.

“He’s got to find the throwing lane around really athletic long defensive ends,” he said, calling Clifford’s overall day a “triple”.

One possession later, Ohio State DE JT Tuimoloau struggled on a Clifford pass away from RB rookie Kaytron Allen. Midway through the fourth quarter, in what was still a two-point game, Tiumoloau snatched the ball from Clifford’s hand from behind, into the pocket, in what might have been the game’s most critical play.

The suspense over, Clifford threw a screen pass attempt to Tiumoloau, who returned it for a touchdown.

Yes, Tiumoloau had an afternoon himself. Yes, Clifford threw three picks to the defensive linemen.

The defense fought hard, given the short pitches presented to it, to keep Penn State afloat. In the second quarter, the offense found a rhythm, worked pretty well on early downs, and got a big game from second WR Parker Washington, who had 11 catches for 179 yards.

Clifford went 6-for-7 on two quick TD strikes, including a 58-yarder Washington (most of the yardage Washington created after the catch), and the Lions led, 14-10.

It was 14-13 when Ohio State took over with less than a minute left in halftime and led Penn State 8.

The Buckeyes timed the ball with six seconds left and went for the touchdown. Diaz called a corner blitz and CB Johnny Dixon sacked Ohio State QB CJ Stroud late in the half.

Upheaval seemed very possible at the time. But as the second half wore on, the Buckeyes found some easy-to-access shots in midfield. This swung the highly publicized game between the Ohio State receivers and the Penn State secondary in favor of the Buckeyes.

“We knew they had a good deep ball game, so we wanted to keep them away from us,” Penn State CB Kalen King said. “We tried to remove that and limit them to smaller things.”

Smaller things added. Stroud didn’t hurt his Heisman Trophy bid, completing 26 of 33 throws for 354 yards and a touchdown. WR Marvin Harrison, Jr. of Philadelphia had 12 catches for 180 yards.

The Lions are 6-2, 3-2 in the Big Ten and finish 1-2 in the three-game streak (at Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State) long considered season-defining.

The stretch begins in Indiana on Saturday with a 10-win season and likely a six-bowl New Year’s Eve bid still very much on the table.

And with the highest level of sport still out of reach.

Comments are closed.