Penn State Football: Nittany Lions 35, Purdue Boilermakers 31

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Penn State wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (1) celebrates a touchdown with offensive lineman Olumuyiwa Fashanu (74) during the second half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. ., on Thursday, September 1, 2022.

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Penn State opened its season with a big win Thursday night in a game that nearly ended badly for the Nittany Lions. They beat Purdue Boilermakers on the road at Ross-Ade Stadium, 35-31.

Purdue got to the board first in a game that started off slow. The Boilermakers hit a 36-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead, but Penn State was able to react. The Nittany Lions ran down the field and Sean Clifford hit wide receiver Mitch Tinsley underhand. Running back Kaytron Allen blocked his man in the end zone, freeing Tinsley to score on his first catch as the Nittany Lion.

Purdue found their way offensively to match a long drive that ended with a strong three-yard run by King Doerue. That’s when the tide turned in favor of the Nittany Lions. They took advantage of a short field to score on a two-yard run from Sean Clifford on a 43-yard drive.

Then Zakee Wheatley hit the ball for a fumble recovered by Joey Porter Jr., which was followed by a 67-yard touchdown pass from Clifford to Brenton Strange. Strange came back for the ball, broke a tackle and kicked it for a score with just two seconds left in the half to give Penn State a 21-10 halftime lead.

Purdue cut the lead again to open the second half with another Doerue touchdown.

The Nittany Lions then turned to first-year quarterback Drew Allar after Clifford rushed into the locker room with an undisclosed injury. However, he returned soon after and returned after an Allar drive that included two completions on four attempts for 26 yards.

Purdue continued to march on Penn State’s field, taking the lead on a touchdown pass from Aidan O’Connell to Charlie Jones.

Penn State fought back after a stoppage in their defense, with Clifford leading the way. The Nittany Lions started throwing the ball more and the redshirted senior quarterback connected with his wides, including on a 29-yard touchdown pass to go up 28-24. Clifford followed with an error, throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Chris Jefferson.

The veteran quarterback regained his composure late in the game to lead the Nittany Lions on an eight-play, 80-yard run to take the lead, 35-31.

That proved enough as the defense stopped Purdue and gave Penn State the season-opening win.

game player

Purdue WR Charlie Jones: Jones was the best offensive player on the field Thursday night and made his living finding space and making plays for the Boilermakers. He finished the game with 12 receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown on his debut for Purdue. Jones is one of the best players in the country on the open field, but he made plays before he got the ball on Thursday. He continued to find gaps in the Penn State secondary and fought for separation right at the line of scrimmage on slant routes. He made timely plays and helped the Boilermakers consistently move the strings in the game.

what victory means

Penn State picking up this win could go a long way in bringing the team back to double-digit wins for the first time in three years. The Nittany Lions needed to win many of their coin toss games and this was one of them. Now they lead in that area with another 50/50 game looming in two weeks against Auburn. Beating Purdue sets the tone for Penn State and they now have a real shot at 10 wins this season.

This story was originally published September 2, 2022 12:04 a.m.

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Jon Sauber received his BA in Digital and Print Journalism from Penn State and his Masters in Sports Journalism from IUPUI. His previous stops include jobs at the Indianapolis Star, NCAA and Rivals.

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