Penn State defense can’t keep up, offense missing in 24-10 loss to Arkansas

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TAMPA, Fla – Penn State entered the Outback Bowl shorthanded on defense and the effect of the missing six players really showed in the result on Saturday, a 24-10 victory for No.22 Arkansas ahead of a crowd of 46,577 people at Raymond James Stadium.

But the Nittany Lions offense, where All-America wide receiver Jahan Dotson was the only player to retire, also failed to show even though all the remaining members of that unit were present except for the injured tackle Rasheed Walker.

The Lions (7-6), who have lost six of their last eight games, only had one good quarter, the second, when they scored all their points – a 42-yard pass from Sean Clifford to a wide-open KeAndre Lambert-Smith in the end zone and a 33-yard field goal from Jake Pinegar.

READ MORE: Penn State’s Sandy Barbour Says She & James Franklin Are Aligned On What Needs To Be Done To Be Successful In Football

The rest of the game was a mix of a failed basket, a crazy fake punt that went nowhere and a brutal Clifford interception in the red zone in the end zone that wiped out all hope of return at the start of the fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions gained just 94 total yards in the second half and 323 for the game in posting a season-high points scoring goal.

Meanwhile, the Razorbacks (9-4) lost their effective quick attack after halftime behind 245-pound red-shirt second-year quarterback KJ Jefferson. Jefferson rushed for just 102 yards in the third quarter, including an 8-yard rush that gave Arkansas the lead for good.

The Hogs, who entered the game averaging 217 rushing yards per game (12th in FBS), finished the game with 361. Jefferson finished with 110 yards on 20 carries and won Game MVP honors. .

“They’ve made a commitment to lead the quarterback,” Lions head coach James Franklin said of the second half. “They went with a zone reading on the perimeter and then they went with a zone reading on the inside where they were reading the linebacker. If he was running over with the running back, they would shoot him and hit the quarterback inside. This was obviously a major factor in the game.

Despite a defense without five starters who retired and injured cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields, the Nittany Lions did a good job fending off rushers from the Razorbacks. They also put pressure on Jefferson, who was sacked five times in the first two quarters, including three coming from Smith Vilbert, previously a little-used player who has received more reps with all reshuffled staff in the unit.

But Penn State’s defense life changed in the third quarter. The Razorbacks kicked off and totaled 75 yards in seven games – all points – with Jefferson representing four for 42 yards. Jefferson started the second walk with a 19-yard rush and Cam Little closed it with a 36-yard field goal. The quarterback was rocked on a 34-yard run on the next possession, but substitute Malik Hornsby ran 32 yards to prepare for Raheim Sanders’ 1-yard rush, his second TD of the day. At that point, the Nittany Lions were pretty much gassed on that 80-degree sunny day, and the game was pretty much decided.

“I think their pace was pretty impressive,” defensive end Nick Tarburton said. “I think defensively we were pretty good on the pitch. As soon as they slammed the ball they were back on the ball. So it was a lot of tempo. Hats off, they played well in the racing game.

The Lions’ task was made more difficult with four of their first seven starters – end Arnold Ebiketie, tackle Derrick Tangelo and linebackers Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith – stepping down, along with safety Jaquan Brisker. Castro-Fields’ absence was revealed during warm-ups when he stepped onto the pitch barefoot and in shorts, indicating he was unavailable.

Jesse Luketa, who stepped down as a defensive linebacker and made nine tackles, announced after the game that he would skip an NCAA-authorized fifth season and prepare for the NFL Draft.

Clifford was up and down – mostly down – the entire game. He completed just four of his first 11 passes for 67 yards before finding his touch in the second quarter. Obvious confusion in the Arkansas high school set up an easy 42-yard touchdown pass from Clifford to Lambert-Smith and then the fifth-year senior quarterback threw two assists to set up the basket for 33 yards from Pinegar.

But Clifford struggled in the second half, completing just four of 12 passes for 23 yards. The first two possessions scored 15 yards and ended with a pair of punts. The third practice turned out to be promising, with Clifford rushing over 41 yards five times on a walk from Penn State 25 to Arkansas 10. But a first pass and double cover goal proved to be true. disastrous when Joe Foucha chose the throw. in the end zone, ending the Lions’ latest threat.

“We weren’t consistent enough, but we managed to make some big plays,” Franklin said of the first half. “We didn’t make it through those games in the second half. We had opportunities, dropped balloons.

Franklin said the team’s medical staff removed Clifford from the game after the interception, but gave no information about a possible injury.

First-year replacement Christian Veilleux finished for the Lions. With Clifford returning for a sixth season, two highly rated quarterbacks reporting to campus later this month and Veilleux, it will be interesting to see how Franklin handles the competition.

All-Big Ten safety Ji’Ayir Brown counted towards the Nittany Lions’ two takeaways with a pair of interceptions, including one at the end of the first half when Arkansas attempted a gadget game. while they were in the shooting range that could have tied the score at half. Brown finished with a team-record six interceptions this season.

Franklin said Brown hadn’t trained all week and was only allowed to play on Friday afternoon.

“It was tough,” Brown said. “I just looked at the guys from the side, I took mental notes. In fact, that’s what prepared me, taking these notes mentally, watching a lot of movies. I have a lot of extra movies to watch. I got out and was able to perform today as I wanted.

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