Final Thoughts: Penn State 27, Michigan 17

By Matt de Bear on November 28, 2020 at 3:25 pm
Nov 28, 2020; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) rushes in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in 2020, Penn State has won a football game. The Nittany Lions knocked off Michigan 27-17 in Michigan Stadium, the program's first victory in Ann Arbor since the 2009 season.

  • One of the questions posed to James Franklin during Wednesday's press conference asked whether the seventh-year head coach had lost his team. Given the team's start, and resiliency showed throughout the game, that is far from the case. The Lions raced out to a 7-0 lead with a dominating opening drive and did not look back the rest of the way. For much of this season, Penn State had crumbled in the face of adversity, but that was not the case against the now 2-4 Wolverines. That was perhaps no more evident than a 12-play, 75-yard, 5:00 touchdown drive to go back up 27-17 after Michigan trimmed the lead to just three at 20-17. If there was any doubt, a fourth-and-inches stop by the defense on an ensuing drive all but sealed the victory.
  • A week after being benched to start the game, Sean Clifford was back under center throughout and turned in a solid performance. After throwing eight interceptions through the season's first five games, the junior did not turn the ball over, and provided numerous big plays with both his arm and especially his legs. Clifford still has plenty of work to do, but it was great to see him respond so well to the adversity of the last two weeks.
  • Penn State's much-maligned pass defense also stepped up. The Nittany Lions held Cade McNamara and Joe Milton to just 112 yards on 13-for-28 passing and no scores. Again, there is plenty of work to do over the last three games of the season, but after five weeks of negativity, any sign of progress should be taken as a positive sign.
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