PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- — After the worst start in school history, Penn State is starting to play like the Nittany Lions of old.
Sean Clifford threw a 29-yard touchdown and Penn State's defense set up three scores with stops or takeaways on Saturday in a 23-7 victory over Rutgers that gave the program its 900th win.
Penn State (2-5, 2-5 Big Ten) dominated both sides of the ball, outgained Rutgers 381-204 and held the Scarlet Knights to a season-low for points. The win was the second straight for the Nittany Lions and their 14th in a row over the Scarlet Knights (2-5, 2-5).
“This program is not a losing program, this is not who we are,” said Clifford, who was 15 of 22 for 133 yards and an interception on a cold, windy day. “We had a rough start and a lot of things factor into that, but we know that we’re not a losing program. We didn’t come here to lose. It’s just getting back to ourselves. It was five weeks in a row that we were completely out of whack.”
Clifford opened the scoring with a 29-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Parker Washington with 3:32 left in the first quarter. It came after the Nittany Lions stuffed Johnny Langan on a fourth-and-1 from the Rutgers 45 on the Scarlet Knights’ opening possession.
A second stop on a fourth-and-1 from the Rutgers 45 in the second quarter led to a 7-yard touchdown run by Devyn Ford for a 17-0 halftime lead.
Coach James Franklin has seen improvement the past two weeks, especially from his defense, particularly in short yard situations.
“I just think that we’ve gone back to play playing how we played for it over six years, which is, you know, making sure to limit explosive plays.” he said.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano had no problem with the gambles on fourth down.
“I was good with the decision to go for it, good with the play call," Schiano said. "I believe in our guys. We can convert those. We just didn’t do it. There’s been many times we have. It didn’t happen this time.”
Pinegar added a 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Rutgers came into the game averaging 30.8 points. It was limited to 12 first downs, 83 yards rushing, 3 of 15 on third-down conversion attempts and 1 of 4 on fourth down.
And this was a game Rutgers thought it had a chance to finally beat Penn State.
“We not only have to catch up to people, but we’ve got to pass them," Schiano said. "Certainly, Penn State’s one of those programs. Today, we didn’t show that.”
Penn State: The Nittany Lions finally looked like the team that was ranked No. 7 in the preseason poll. The ineptitude of the opening five games seemingly has been laid to rest.
Rutgers: By far the Scarlet Knights worst performance of the season. The gap with Penn State is as big as ever.
Penn State: Plays host to Michigan State
Rutgers: At Maryland
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP--Top25
Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns formally notify SEC of membership request for 2025
In a joint statement, Oklahoma and Texas announced they've formally notified the SEC that they are seeking "an invitation for membership" beginning July 1, 2025.
Will Texas, Oklahoma really move to the SEC? We answer the biggest questions
There's a lot to be determined as Texas and Oklahoma take the first steps toward leaving the Big 12. Our reporters break down what we know and what questions remain.
Why Texas' and Oklahoma's moves to SEC would only be 'tip of the iceberg'
Heather Dinich says we could see a snowball effect of teams switching conferences in college football.
New players' association aims to represent college football players amid changing NCAA landscape
A new players' association launched Tuesday with a goal to organize and represent college football players as they push for more rights.
Source: SEC to meet Thursday to discuss adding Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns
SEC presidents and chancellors have scheduled a meeting for Thursday in which they will discuss expansion and whether to add Oklahoma and Texas to what would be college football's first super-conference of 16 teams, a source confirmed to ESPN.
A Texas-OU move to SEC isn't about the greater good for college sports, but rather who gets to be the best
Growing and changing any sport isn't new and, at most times, is necessary. But the rumblings of Texas and Oklahoma likely moving to the SEC remind us that the power brokers pulling the strings don't factor in the greater good.