No. 9 Penn State beats Indiana and keeps playoff hopes alive

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USA Today Images/Matthew O'Haren

No. 9 Penn State beats Indiana and keeps playoff hopes alive

BOX SCORE 

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Quarterback Sean Clifford scored three touchdowns Saturday, leading No. 9 Penn State past No. 24 Indiana 34-27 to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Penn State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten, No. 9 CFP) next week plays at No. 2 Ohio State, where the top spot in the Big Ten East will be on the line.

Clifford also completed 11 of 23 passes for 179 yards and ran for 55 yards. Journey Brown rushed 21 times for 100 yards and added a score. With Penn State ahead by a field goal with 10:45 to play, Clifford led an 18-play, 75-yard drive that ate 9:01 and ended when he plunged in from a yard out to put the game out of reach.

Tight end Nick Bowers caught a 12-yard touchdown pass for the Nittany Lions

Peyton Ramsey completed 31 of 41 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more for the Hoosiers (7-3, 4-3) who outgained Penn State 462 to 371.

After going three-and-out to start the game, the Nittany Lions recovered a muffed punt and scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Clifford to Bowers. Ramsey took advantage of a safety blitz on Indiana's next possession and hit an open Ty Fryfogle for 38 yards to make it 7-7.

Jake Pinegar kicked a 47-yard field goal to put Penn State up 10-7, but Indiana took the lead when Ramsey capped a 63-yard drive with a 1-yard run less than three minutes later.

Clifford put Penn State up 17-14 with 1:03 left in the first quarter when he sprinted up the middle for a 38-yard score. Pinegar added a 27-yard field goal to give Penn State a 20-14 halftime lead.

Brown turned another Indiana turnover into a score when he raced 35 yards early in the third. Ramsey scored on another 1-yard run early in the fourth and Logan Justice kicked two field goals for the Hoosiers.

Both players lost their star receivers in the first half. KJ Hamler left in the first quarter after he returned a kickoff but didn't appear shaken up as he walked off.

Indiana's Whop Philyor had to be helped to the locker room after he was sandwiched between Penn State defenders, taking helmet-to-helmet contact from both and fumbling away the ball in the process.

The takeaway

Indiana: The Hoosiers kept Penn State's offense off-balance most of the way. They also got stops on defense until they needed one most late in the fourth quarter.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions, who hadn't allowed a first-quarter touchdown all season before last week, have now allowed four over their last two games. They continued to give up big plays but made enough adjustments at halftime.

Up next 

Indiana hosts No. 14 Michigan

Penn State visits No. 2 Ohio State.

No. 5 Penn State is unbeaten no more after loss to No. 13 Minnesota

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USA Today Images/Jesse Johnson

No. 5 Penn State is unbeaten no more after loss to No. 13 Minnesota

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota's Jordan Howden picked off Sean Clifford in the end zone with 1:01 left, the third interception thrown by Penn State's quarterback, and the 13th-ranked Gophers held on for a 31-26 victory on Saturday afternoon over the fifth-ranked Nittany Lions for their first win over a top-five team in 20 years.

Tanner Morgan passed for 339 yards and three touchdowns to direct a dismantling of Penn State's staunch defense, as Minnesota (9-0, 6-0, No. 17 CFP) not only remained undefeated but stayed on track for its first trip to the Big Ten championship game.

The first sellout crowd for the Gophers at home in four years swarmed the field after the clock ran out, reveling in the biggest step forward yet under coach P.J. Fleck in his third season. The Gophers scrambled the College Football Playoff picture, too, after Penn State (8-1, 5-1, No. 4 CFP) emerged with a top-four spot in the first edition of the rankings.

Rashod Bateman got the Gophers going with a 66-yard score on their first possession and finished with seven catches for 203 yards, the second-most in program history. Tyler Johnson had seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown, too, as Minnesota made enough early gains to hold up during the late rally by Penn State.

Journey Brown's second rushing touchdown of the game with 3:49 to go cut the lead to five points, and the Gophers promptly went three and out. K.J. Hamler muffed the punt when a teammate backed into him, and though the Nittany Lions recovered, they were pushed back to their 28-yard line.

Clifford, who went 23 for 43 for 340 yards and one score, connected with Jahan Dotson for 49 yards to get Penn State to the 11. Two plays later, however, came the drive killer for Penn State. Daniel George was called for offensive pass interference during an over-the-middle catch by Brown that reached the 2. Clifford, who was off target for most of the day, overthrew George on the next play before the game-sealing pick by Howden. Clifford, who came into the game leading the Big Ten in total offense, had only three interceptions over the first eight games.

Antoine Winfield Jr. had the first two picks in the first half, matching the FBS lead and setting the all-time Minnesota record with seven on the season. Both were inside the 10-yard line.

The Gophers had 321 yards and a 24-13 lead at halftime, already the most points allowed in a game by the Nittany Lions this season, but a fumble near midfield by Shannon Brooks at the end of a run on the first play after a punt sapped some momentum.

Penn State went the other way for a touchdown pass from Clifford to backup tight end Nick Bowers, but Bateman broke open again for a 36-yard gain on the next drive to set up a scoring plunge by Seth Green. The Gophers have touchdowns on all 19 of their goal-to-go possessions this season. Chris Williamson batted down Clifford's fourth-down throw into the end zone on the ensuing drive by Penn State, giving the Gophers another opportunity to drain the clock.

The takeaway

Penn State: Seeking their first berth in the College Football Playoff, the Nittany Lions watched a defense that had allowed the second-fewest points in the FBS entering the game take a step back against a group of Gophers receivers that was the best they'd faced all year.

Minnesota: Ending a 13-game losing streak to ranked opponents and beating a top-five team for the first time since a win at No. 2 Penn State in 1999, the Gophers produced a potentially program-changing victory that has been missing for so many decades. They have a two-game lead in the West Division with three to go.

Poll impliacations 

Penn State could fall behind Minnesota, which will certainly climb into the top 10 when the next rankings come out on Sunday. The loss will also hurt the Nittany Lions in the CFP pecking order, with the Gophers getting a boost but still with a long way to go to be in the mix.

Up next 

Penn State: Hosts Indiana next Saturday. The Nittany Lions have a 21-1 record against the Hoosiers, with the only loss on the road 2013.

Minnesota: Plays at Iowa next Saturday. The Gophers have lost four straight games against the Hawkeyes.

No. 10 Penn State holds off No. 17 Iowa

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USA Today Images/Jeffrey Becker

No. 10 Penn State holds off No. 17 Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Noah Cain ran for a five-yard touchdown with 5:17 left and 10th-ranked Penn State held off No. 17 Iowa 17-12 on Saturday night, its first win over a ranked opponent this season.

Cain finished with 102 yards for the Nittany Lions (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten), who extended their winning streak over the Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-2) to six games.

A matchup between two of the nation's top defenses turned when Iowa's Nate Stanley threw an interception near midfield with 9:22 remaining. Penn State drove 35 yards on a gassed Iowa defense, and the last of three straight runs by Cain made it 17-6.

Iowa pulled within 17-12 when Stanley found Brandon Smith for a 33-yard TD pass with 2:31 to go. The Hawkeyes' two-point try failed though, and Cain converted a crucial third down that ensured that Iowa never saw the ball again.

Up 7-6 late in the third quarter, Penn State recovered a fumble at Iowa's 16 and Sean Clifford connected on an apparent touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth that was overturned on review. Iowa then held the Nittany Lions at the 1-foot line, and two straight holding calls forced them to settle for a 33-yard field goal.

KJ Hamler caught seven passes, including a 22-yarder for a TD, for Penn State.

Stanley threw for 286 yards, but the Hawkeyes ran for just 70 yards on 30 attempts.

THE TAKEAWAY

Penn State: The Nittany Lions survived their toughest road challenge outside of a trip to Ohio State on Nov. 23. Penn State was on the road against a talented team with a jacked-up crowd, and yet the Nittany Lions were the ones making the plays that made the difference.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes nearly went back-to-back games without a touchdown. Granted, Michigan and Penn State are really good on defense. But Iowa can't continue to lean on its own defense to keep it in games. At 1-2 in the league and with Wisconsin looking like one of the best teams in America, the Big Ten West doesn't look so winnable anymore.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Penn State might move up a few spots. Iowa might struggle to hang onto its spot in the Top 25 after back-to-back losses.

UP NEXT

Penn State hosts Michigan on Oct. 19.

Iowa hosts Purdue next Saturday.