No. 12 Penn State passes SEC workforce 28-20 defeat
No. 12 Penn State won its second loss to a ranked opponent in three games by defeating No. 20 Auburn 28-20 for a rare win over an SEC team.
Senior quarterback Sean Clifford threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns while shouldering the bulk of the offensive load while the Nittany Lions struggled to establish their running game.
The Auburn win was the first against the SEC for Penn State since beating LSU in the Citrus Bowl at the end of the 2009 season. His last regular season loss to an SEC team came in 1990 in Alabama. And it came during the annual White Out game.
Clifford, who was on the bench during the team’s five-game losing streak earlier last season, has been faultless all along, including completions on his first 12 passes of the second half while leading two touchdown drives.
He outdid fellow Bo Nix, who was 21 of 37 for 171 yards when Auburn lost for the first time in Bryan Harsin’s first season after easy wins against Akron and Alabama State when the Tigers scored 60 points in both games.
OPINION: Yes, Alabama looked vulnerable to Florida. Why it’s still the team to beat.
ANALYSIS: Unbeaten against Irish but needs to improve quickly to stay in the competition
ANALYSIS: Bearcats show that the group of five could play a role in the CFP – if they survive Notre Dame
Penn State opened scoring in the second half with the help of a fumble from Auburn receiver Kobe Hudson, who tried to play a trick on the first snap of the third quarter. The Nittany Lions bounced back on the Tigers 20 and scored four games later on Tyler Warren’s 2-yard run.
Noah Cain’s 4-yard touchdown gave the Nittany Lions a 28:20 lead in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for an important defensive position. Auburn drove to Penn State 2 but NIx’s fourth down pass to Hudson in the end zone was incomplete.
The Tigers would get the ball back for one final drive and the Nittany Lions would hit 26. But Nix’s pass after time was thrown to the ground.
The first half went back and forth as Auburn scored the first hit on his first drive on a 45-yard field goal from Anders Carlson after stopping Penn State with a fourth and 1.
The Nittany Lions responded with Clifford going 4 for 4 for 73 yards on a touchdown drive that was capped by Jahan Dotson’s 4 yard catch.
Tank Bigsby returned the Tigers to the lead with a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter before Clifford found Brenton Strange for a 2-yard score, which put Penn State up 14:10 at break.
Nix had only 99 yards past at break when the Nittany Lions defeated Auburn 259-158.
Follow college reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith