STATE COLLEGE, Pa .– – Jaquan Brisker walked through a field littered with white pom poms and made his way towards a row of head-to-toe painted white Penn State students.
The security of the Nittany Lions star had a big smile on his face, and it didn’t fade even when he stumbled upon a photographer while celebrating a dramatic victory on a boisterous night in Happy Valley.
Brisker interrupted a desperate pass to the end zone by Auburn‘s Bo Nix when time ran out and No.10 Penn State held on to beat No.22 Auburn 28-20 on Saturday night.
Sean Clifford completed 28 of 32 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns as Penn State (3-0) hosted their white crowd at Beaver Stadium for a rare visit from a Southeastern Conference team.
“I was ready,” Brisker said. “When you come to Penn State, you expect to play in front of large crowds like this. You have to take it for 10 seconds and then it’s back to reality.
Jahan Dotson made 10 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, tight end Brenton Strange grabbed a touchdown and tight end Tyler Warren and Noah Cain ran for scores to help the Nittany Lions beat an SEC opponent at home for the first time since 1985 against Alabama.
Penn State had to make two late defensive positions to hold onto the lead.
“I think we have a very good defensive mentality,” said coach James Franklin. “I think our leadership is really good. I think we are a mentally strong football team. I think we are a physically difficult football team.
First, the Nittany Lions kept Auburn (2-1) out of the end zone after a first and a 10-goal. An incomplete fade from 2 to 4 with 3:08 left gave Penn the ball. State.
Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said he and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo played the script for these situations and that was the call they preferred. He said Nix had several options – not just the fade out which wasn’t really close – but that he would have to watch the movie before he knew if it was the best decision.
“I trust what he saw there – we’ll look at it, we’ll learn from it and we’ll take it from there,” Harsin said.
The Nittany Lions couldn’t miss the time and returned to Auburn with 45 seconds left.
Auburn made it to Penn State 23 with 3 seconds left. Nix shot deep in the middle but Brisker cut past Demetris Robertson a few paces past the goal line and knocked him down.
Brisker also had a key late interception near the goal line in the first win over Wisconsin.
Tank Bigsby scored two rushing touchdowns and Anders Carlson added two field goals for the Tigers, who have lost their 10th straight road game to a Top 10 team since 2014.
Penn State didn’t get white last year because the pandemic didn’t mean fans. The Nittany Lions erupted early in the season for Auburn’s first trip to a Big Ten stadium since 1931 against Wisconsin.
A sea of white with Auburn orange flecks was all over, pom poms flapping and singing along with “Sweet Caroline” to start the fourth quarter.
Despite the electric atmosphere with over 109,000 fans, the Tigers never looked shaken.
The first regular season game on campus between the Big Ten and SEC teams since 2011 must have had a lot of fans coming back for more.
Bisgby ran for 102 yards hard and Nix was 21 for 37 for 185 yards and no turnover in the first real test under Harsin, who was hired away from Boise State during the offseason.
“This loss should burn,” Harsin said. “There are a lot of guys in this locker room who are disappointed, and they should be.”
Maybe once Auburn looked out of whack.
The Tigers opted for an optional wide pass to open the third quarter.
Kobe Hudson, who was looking to throw, was hit by several defenders and escaped Derrick Tangelo of Penn State. The Nittany Lions only needed four games to take a 21-10 lead.
The Tigers then went on their longest practice of the night, a 15-play, 75-yard run that ended when Bigsby beat the defense around the right edge for 6 yards.
After Auburn’s defense made a fourth save in midfield, Carlson reduced Penn State’s lead to 21-20 with a 43-yard field goal with 14:55 remaining when Harsin moved up to fourth and- 1.
Penn State took over from there.
Cain scored 28-20 when he took a delayed transfer in the middle of 3 yards halfway through the fourth.
Take it away
Auburn: The Tigers have fallen to 1-5 against the Top 25 teams since last year because they ran out of games in the passing game when they needed them most.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions showed some creativity on offense with some passes to Dotson, an optional pass that worked, and straight shots to a towering tight end.
“These guys know what this means to me,” Dotson said. “They know they can count on me at all times. That’s what I do.
Auburn: Host from the State of Georgia.
Penn State: hosts Villanova.
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