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Written by: Billy Splain on Sunday, September 19th, 2021
Jaquan Brisker played superbly, getting the eventual game winning pass breakup (photo Paul Burdick)
Penn State held off a furious comeback by Auburn and on the last play of the game, former Gateway High player Jaquan Brisker knocked away the potential game winning pass to secure the second win over a ranked opponent this year in front of an announced 109, 958 “white out” fans clad in white. Penn State, who started 0-5 last year, is off to a 3-0 start. “We’ve been playing championship level football all year long. We’re playing assignment sound. We’re playing with heart, but we also got big players stepping up and Brisker is a great example of that” said Head Coach James Franklin right after the game. “Our fans were incredible tonight. The atmosphere was amazing. We beat a good Auburn team today. It wasn’t easy but we got the job done.”
Dotson continues to show he’s one of the best players in the country
Clifford was nearly flawless all game.
Sean Clifford was a stellar 28-32 for 280 YDS and 2 TDs. He was 12-12 in the second half. Former Nazareth wideout Jahan Dotson hauled in 10 of those for 78 yards and a td. The key to the success of the passing game was the offensive line, often a sore spot with many over the past few years. “They played really well…They made a statement early in the game when Sean was back there for like 12 seconds.” said Franklin. As if Dotson’s receptions weren’t good enough, he also added a 22 yard completion to his resume.
Auburn jumped out to a 3-0 lead early with a 45-yard field goal by Anders Carlson. Penn State answered with an 88 yard drive that lasted just over 2 minutes. Clifford found Dotson wide open in the endzone for the four yard td. The Tigers jumped right back with a 4 yard td run by Tank Bigsby to take a three point lead. Trailing by three, Penn State went on a 91 yard, 14 play drive capped by Clifford’s second td pass of the night, a 2 yard toss to Brenton Strange. The Nittany Lions took the 14-10 lead into the locker rooms at half time. Just before time expired, Clifford made his only mistake, and the first of the season for PSU, throwing an interception deep with second left in the half.
It wasn’t just the Tigers that the Nittany Lions were battling, at times it seemed they were also battling the referees. The SEC crew didn’t have the best of games. In fact, they made some bizarre calls. During one play, Sean Clifford dropped back, had plenty of time and no pressure, launched a deep ball. The receiver didn’t run the correct route but the crew flagged PSU for intentional grounding on a play that is routinely not called as such. Then later in the game Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, under heavy pressure, launched a ball to nobody but wasn’t call for grounding. Replay showed he was within the “box” and should have been flagged.
At one point they lost count of the downs and Penn State was forced to punt on third down. “I talked to all of the officials. They all agreed on the call, and so did the replay official. And I kept bringing them over and saying, it’s not accurate. I don’t know what else I can tell you” said Franklin of the mistake by the crew. Then, later in the half the officials granted Penn State a first down when its second-down play ended clearly a full yard short of the marker. On replay, they fixed that one. (Penn State picked up the first down and ended up scoring on the drive.)
Auburn opened the second half trying to get tricky. Nix tossed the football to wide receiver Kobe Hudson, who was supposed to then throw the football. Hudson dropped the football, and Penn State defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo fell on the loose football. Four plays later, Penn State tight end Tyler Warren, from the Wildcat formation with Clifford lined up at wide out, went airborne to score from 2-yards out. Penn State took a 21-10 lead early in the third.
The Tigers responded later in the quarter with a time consuming 75 yard drive capped by a 4 yard run from Bigsby. The running back played tough all game and led all players with 102 yards on 23 hard hitting carries. At another point in the game, 320 pound defensive tackle PJ Mustipher’s forward progress was ruled stopped on a fake punt, even though it seemed the whistle did not blow until he had been pushed past the line to gain.
Auburn pulled with a point on another Carlson field goal to make it a 21-20 lead to start the fourth quarter, but on the next series Penn State went on one of their most impressive drives of the game, a 9 play, 75 yard drive that ended with Noah Cain going in from the three.
Penn State will host Villanova next week.
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