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Penn State’s Sean Clifford, defense bounce back with win over Minnesota

The White Out crowd of 109,813 at Beaver Stadium booed sixth-year quarterback Sean Clifford during pregame introductions Saturday night.

By the end of Penn State’s 45-17 victory over Minnesota, they cheered him loudly.

Clifford completed 23-of-31 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns to lead the 16th-ranked Nittany Lions to a convincing bounce-back victory.

One week after a 41-17 debacle at Michigan, Penn State (3-1, 6-1) avoided back-to-back losses with a dominant performance and sent Minnesota (1-3, 4-3) to its third consecutive defeat.

With Gophers starting quarterback Tanner Morgan out with a concussion, the Lions made life miserable for backup Athan Kaliakmanis and contained running back Mohamed Ibrahim most of the way.

Ibrahim topped 100 yards for the 15th straight game, but not until the middle of the fourth quarter when the contest had already been decided. He finished with 102 yards, well below his season average of 138.8.

Clifford, whose status was in question after he left the Michigan loss with an apparent shoulder injury, threw touchdown passes to tight ends Tyler Warren and Theo Johnson in the first half and wide receivers Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley in the second half.

Former Gov. Mifflin star Nick Singleton ran for a 16-yard touchdown in the third quarter and a 30-yard score in the fourth for Penn State, which will face second-ranked Ohio State next week at home.

The Gophers began the night ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense (11.7 points per game) and sixth in total defense (263.7 yards). The Lions finished with 479 total yards and had a 175-165 advantage in rushing yards.

Linebackers Curtis Jaocbs and Abdul Carter, a freshman who made his first start, led the charge on defense. Jacobs had 14 tackles and Carter had eight for the Lions, who had seven stops in the backfield one week after Michigan ravaged them for 418 rushing yards, the third-most by a Penn State opponent since 1947.

The Lions also spoiled the return of Kirk Ciarrocca, their offensive coordinator in 2020 who returned to the Minnesota staff this season after serving in that role from 2017-19.

In the first half, Clifford gave his critics even more ammunition by throwing an interception, which Justin Walley returned 37 yards to the Penn State 14. The Lions held and forced the Gophers to settle for a field goal.

Clifford responded by completing a pair of passes to Johnson for 43 yards. Three straight runs netted 7 yards before Jake Pinegar drilled a 41-yard field goal to tie it.

Penn State scored touchdowns on its next two possessions to take a 17-3 lead. Clifford threw a 22-yard screen pass to Singleton and then found Warren behind the Minnesota defense for a 38-yard score.

Kaytron Allen made two strong runs for 23 yards before Clifford connected with Tinsley for 30 yards and then to Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown.

To that point, the Lions had held Minnesota to 56 total yards. But the Gophers climbed back in it with a nine-play, 90-yard drive that Ibrahim capped with a 3-yard score to make it 17-10 at the half.

Kaliakmanis completed just 2-of-8 passes in the first 30 minutes, but he hit Lemeke Brockington for a 33-yard gain on third-and-8 from the Minnesota 12. Kaliakmanis scrambled twice for 27 yards before Ibrahim scored.

Penn State found itself in a battle despite outgaining the Gophers 252-146 in the first half. The Lions, though, broke it open with three touchdowns in the third quarter.

Source: Berkshire mont

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