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Key Plays from Penn State’s Rose Bowl Win

Here are the plays that won Penn State its first Rose Bowl since 1995.



Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin with offensive lineman Sal Wormley (77) as the Auburn Tigers take on the Penn State Nittany Lions at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.

After a back-and-forth first half, Penn State pulled away from #8 Utah late to win the Rose Bowl 35-21 Monday night. The win acts as the exclamation point in a bounce-back season. The Nittany Lions finished 11-2 and will likely be in the top ten to end the year.

Party like it’s 1995

The game marks the most significant win for the program since 2016. It could even be considered the best win of the last decade. Penn State captured its second-ever Rose Bowl victory, the first since the 1994 season. In addition, James Franklin now has his third win against a top-ten opponent.

Most importantly, the game will undoubtedly be a springboard of momentum for the 2023 season.

We can – and will – spend all offseason dissecting the significance of this win on the overall trajectory of the Penn State football program. But before we look ahead, let’s look back on the moments that swung the Rose Bowl in the Nittany Lions’ favor.

Curtis Jacobs’s sack to end the first half

Curtis Jacobs’s sack of Cam Rising in the second quarter felt significant when it occurred. Despite holding Utah to 14 first-half points, it felt as if the Nittany Lions’ defense was beginning to crack near the end of the first half. After allowing 40 yards in the first quarter, Penn State gave up two 75-yard touchdown drives in the second quarter. Utah effectively used motion to set the edge in the run game, and the Penn State pass rush struggled to contain Rising.

After the Nittany Lions punted, Utah was approaching midfield with 11 seconds left in the second quarter. Jacobs’s sack prevented the Utes from maneuvering into scoring position to take the lead at the end of the half.


It was unclear, however, that the play would be a harbinger of what was to come.

Jacobs’s sack marked Penn State’s first of the day against the elusive Rising. The Nittany Lions would add five more in the second half. Although Jacobs was the only Nittany Lion to down Rising before his injury, it felt like the momentum was already shifting toward Penn State by the time he left the game.

Penn State essentially held the Utes scoreless for the entire second half. Utah added a touchdown in garbage time, but it was too late by then. Penn State held Utah backup Bryson Barnes to 112 passing yards. Barnes’s legs were a nonfactor, and the Lions’ defense pinned their ears back as Manny Diaz dialed up the pressure. The Nittany Lions held the prolific Utes’ rushing attack to 70 yards in the second half.

Utah’s offense was one of the toughest tests for Penn State all season, and the defense passed with flying colors. 

Nicholas Singleton’s 87-yard touchdown run

Pasadena and Penn State running backs – a combination that has withstood the test of time. The third-longest touchdown run in the bowl’s history, Nicholas Singleton dashed to his spot next to Ki-Jana Carter and Saquon Barkley in Penn State’s Rose Bowl folklore. 

Once Singleton crossed the goal line, Penn State never looked back. The score was the first of three unanswered touchdowns that would cushion the Nittany Lions’ margin of victory.

Singleton’s run was also the second of Penn State’s three scores on third down in the game. The Nittany Lions’ offense converted 54% of its third downs Monday, slightly above its season average. However, those conversions packed a punch. Along with the three scores, 288 of Penn State’s 448 total yards for the game came on third down. This includes two of the longest plays in Rose Bowl history.

The run was also the culmination of a historic night for Singleton. Though he only carried the ball seven times, Singleton ran for 120 yards (17 YPC) and two scores. With that run, Singleton also surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season, joining Barkley as the only other Penn State freshman to do so.

On a night that was a curtain call for Penn State’s veteran leadership, the young talent stole the show on offense. Freshmen and sophomores accounted for 419 total yards and four of Penn State’s five touchdowns. True freshmen standouts Singleton and Kaytron Allen tailed 173 yards and three scores on their own. They may have just performed in the shadow of Hollywood’s lights, but the Nittany Lions’ young stars proved they’re ready to shine on their own in 2023.

Sean Clifford’s 88-yard touchdown pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Sean Clifford put the Rose Bowl on ice. Clifford’s 88-yard bomb to KeAndre Lambert-Smith is now the longest touchdown pass in Rose Bowl history. Each side would tack on another score, but this touchdown sealed the game for the Nittany Lions.

Lambert-Smith had a spectacular game in his own right. He added to this score with three receptions for 124 total yards. As Penn State looks to add receivers in the portal this offseason, Lambert-Smith used the Rose Bowl stage to make his case as the Nittany Lions’ top target next year.

However, this play – and really this game – was about Sean Clifford. Objectivity be damned, Clifford had the performance he deserved. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 279 yards and two scores. Although the stats may not show it, Clifford kept plays alive with his feet. He orchestrated the line of scrimmage like an experienced opera conductor, seemingly always having the offense in the right play.

Clifford’s performance was a dreamlike ending to his career at Penn State. After years of his mistakes being amplified, Clifford played error-free football. The quarterback with all the program records but no signature win checked that final box Monday night. As he unofficially passed the torch to Drew Allar, Sean Clifford did so knowing that his legacy at Penn State was cemented in the Rose Bowl.

Game Stats – ESPN.


Penn State football yet to name a starting quarterback heading into summer camp

The Penn State football starting quarterback situation remains unresolved heading into the summer.



Penn State football starting quarterback, Drew Allar, James Franklin
Apr 15, 2023; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) walks off the field following the competition of the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. The Blue team defeated the White team 10-0. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Yesterday, the media was invited back to State College to speak with a few members of the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff for the first time since the Blue/White game in mid-April. During the press conference, head coach James Franklin was asked about the unresolved QB situation, which was last discussed during his previous media appearance. His response was straightforward: there is currently no designated Penn State football starting quarterback.

Penn State football starting quarterback yet to be named ahead of summer ball

This fall, the Blue and White will have a new quarterback for the first time since 2018. For the past four years, Sean Clifford, the Lions’ former 6th-year QB, was assumed to be the Penn State football starting quarterback ahead of all four seasons.

Throughout the offseason, the competition has been primarily between two individuals: Drew Allar and Beau Pribula, both entering their second season with the Nittany Lions. However, head coach James Franklin emphasizes that the starting quarterback position for Penn State football is still up for grabs as the team heads into summer ball.

“I think really every year it’s the same philosophy,” James Franklin said on Thursday. “I think sometimes it’s assumed, which, I get it, but it’s competition at every position. A lot of things can happen between now and the season; even when Sean Clifford was here … he was competing for the starting job every single year. If he would get beat out, that was his problem, not mine.

“We have competition at every single position every single year, returning starter or not,” Franklin continued. “I think that’s the right thing to do — not only for our entire program, but I also think for the starter.”

Drew Allar is expected to take over despite the decision pending

While James Franklin is yet to name a starting quarterback for the 2023 season, it is widely assumed that former five-star prospect Drew Allar, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2022 class, will secure the position and become the starting quarterback for Penn State football.

Blue and White fans have been eagerly anticipating the start of the Allar era in Happy Valley for years. If everything goes as expected, fans won’t have to wait much longer, as the Nittany Lions will kick off their 2023 season against West Virginia in just 85 days.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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2023 Penn State football offensive line ranked in top 10

Today, the 2023 Penn State football offensive line was ranked among the nation’s top 10.



2023 Penn State football offensive line
Sep 18, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) gestures from the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Today, new rankings were released by 247 Sports, a trusted publication in the world of college athletics, which ranked the 2023 Penn State football offensive line among the top 10 best units in the nation. A season ago, the Nittany Lions’ offensive line showed shocking improvement as they helped lead the Blue and White to an impressive 11-2 campaign, which was capped with a Rose Bowl win over Utah.

2023 Penn State football offensive line ranked among top 10 nationally

In 2021, the Penn State football offensive line was perhaps as bad as it has ever been, leading to a stagnant rushing attack, an injured quarterback, and overall offensive failure. As a result, the Blue and White made a few staff changes, and these new faces, combined with rising young talents like Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, brought the Nittany Lions back to success on the offensive side of the football.

For the first time since 2018, Penn State had a 1,000-yard rusher, and they nearly had two of them. Additionally, Sean Clifford had a chance to make decisions and throw the ball with his feet set, resulting in an improved passing game and overall success. By the end of the season, Penn State football had 11 wins, with all but one of those wins being blowouts, including the Lions’ huge win in the Rose Bowl.

Heading into the new season, the expectations for the Blue and White are growing higher and higher. The 2023 Penn State football offensive line is projected to be even bigger and better than the 2022 line. If the Nittany Lions expect to appear in the College Football Playoff or make a run at the Big Ten title this year, it will start with their performance up front.

According to today’s new rankings from 247 Sports, the 2023 Penn State football offensive line ranks among the nation’s top 10, coming in at No. 8 ahead of the new season. Fans will get their first glimpse of this new-look offensive line this fall when the Nittany Lions host the West Virginia Mountaineers at Beaver Stadium in State College, PA.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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Penn State football: Best wins over 2023 opponents – Iowa

It took all 60 minutes – literally – but Penn State football escaped this game at Kinnick with a victory.



Penn State Football, Iowa
Sep 23, 2017; Iowa City, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) jumps over Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Joshua Jackson (15) and defensive back Amani Hooker (27) as Nittany Lions wide receiver Juwan Johnson (84) looks to block during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Penn State won 21-19. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Today, we continue our series of the best Penn State football wins over 2023 opponents with Iowa. Penn State’s best wins over the Hawkeyes have come at the price of some heartache as well. The two schools met nine times before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, with Penn State winning six matchups.

Starting conference play, it seemed the Nittany Lions would continue this advantage, winning four of their first five contests with the Hawkeyes. But then the trouble started. Iowa dominated the series in the early 2000s. Some of the major letdowns include the infamous 6-4 game and a heartbreaking last-second loss in 2008 that cost the Nittany Lions a shot at the national championship.

Since 2011 Penn State has won most of the matchups, but the last contest in 2021 left a bad taste in the mouths of Nittany Lions fans. Penn State will look to cleanse that in this year’s matchup in Happy Valley under the lights of a Beaver Stadium White Out.

However, of all the matchups, there is one game and resulting Nittany Lion victory that stands out in this series. This would be the 2017 contest in Kinnick.

Saquon Barkley was an inhuman force for Penn State football

A game in Kinnick Stadium is never easy. The fans are raucous and sit right on top of the players. The stadium’s design literally puts the stands as close to the sidelines as possible. If it is a night game, then the atmosphere turns up tenfold.

That is precisely what the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions faced in 2017. Both teams entered the contest undefeated, and the Hawkeyes had developed a reputation for upsets. Iowa’s last three home contests against top-five foes all ended in victories. The Hawkeyes looked to make Penn State its latest victim on this late September night.

But Saquon Barkley did his part and then some to ensure the Nittany Lions would be on the winning end. He finished the game with 211 yards on the ground with a touchdown, and added 12 receptions for 94 yards. His standout play of the night was this beauty that has gone down in Penn State football folklore.

It took all 60 minutes to beat Iowa

The game was quite sluggish to start. The teams traded punts through most of the first half, with Penn State converting a field goal, missing another, and getting a safety to lead 5-0 late in the second quarter. Then Trace McSorley would throw an interception, setting up the Hawkeyes deep in Nittany Lion territory. Iowa converted the opportunity into a touchdown to take a 7-5 halftime lead.

The Nittany Lions led 15-7 after three frames. But then the Iowa offense finally woke up. Running back Akrum Wadley scored two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, giving Iowa a 19-15 lead with just one minute and 42 seconds remaining in the game.

It looked like the Hawkeyes would pull another upset against a top-five foe. That is, until McSorley, Barkley, and the Penn State offense went on one magical final drive. Juwan Johnson’s touchdown catch, the first of his career, silenced the Kinnick crowd as time expired. 

Penn State won and kept its College Football Playoff hopes alive for several more weeks, until back-to-back close losses against Ohio State and Michigan State dashed those dreams. But the Nittany Lions finished the season with an 11-2 record and a win over Washington in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite the season not ending in a playoff berth, the game against Iowa is one Nittany Lion fans still remember fondly.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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