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Clifford’s masterful final drive sends Penn St. past Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Sean Clifford avenged his biggest mistake Thursday night with one masterful, final drive.

It could have saved Penn States conference title hopes.

The sixth-year quarterback installed with Keyvone Lee on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 57 seconds left, rallying the Nittany Lions to a 35-31 victory within their season opener at Purdue.

It had been spectacular, coach James Franklin said when asked concerning the eight-play, 80-yard drive. We focus on the 2-minute drill on a regular basis and it exercised for us there. It is possible to learn a whole lot in games such as this and Id rather learn them with a win.

It had been a rollercoaster night as Clifford opened his sixth college season.

He narrowly escaped the right leg injury in the initial half then handled cramps in the next half, forcing him to miss a string in the 3rd quarter.

He seemed to put the Nittany Lions in charge by starting up with Brenton Strange, who broke two tackles on his solution to a 67-yard score with 2 seconds left in the initial half. That gave the Nittany Lions a 21-10 lead.

He didnt complete a pass after returning in the 3rd quarter and almost gave the overall game away when he overthrew Mitchell Tinsley and Chris Jefferson picked off the errant pass and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown to provide the Boilermakers a 31-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

And, he came through in the clutch to provide Penn State its 10th straight win in the series. Clifford finished 20 of 37 with 282 yards and four scores

It sure wasnt easy before a near-capacity crowd and a casino game that featured seven lead changes.

It had been a gutsy win, Franklin said. We showed plenty of character. Weve surely got to make more plays on offense, obviously.

Penn States defense also had to cope with a small amount of everything. King Doerue ran for just two scores, Aidan OConnell threw for 356 yards and another score and he celebrated his 24th birthday by connecting with childhood friend Charlie Jones 12 times for 153 yards and a 17-yard TD pass.

Still, they came up one first down as well as perhaps one replay review that overturned a late catch short.

Every loss hurts and we’d that one right where we wanted it an opportunity to seal the overall game, yet another first down we win the overall game, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. We apologize (to the fans) we werent in a position to take action.

THE TAKEAWAY

Penn State: The Nittany Lions needed this win in which to stay contention in the Big Ten East Division plus they first got it barely. Clifford could have averted a quarterback controversy along with his late heroics. However the ground game averaged 3.2 yards per carry last season generated just 3.1 on Thursday.

Purdue: An opening-night win certainly could have made a large statement in the spacious West. Instead, the Boilermakers home crowd went home deflated. Now theyll make an effort to regain a few of the the momentum they started building with last years nine-win season.

EARLY EXIT

Penn State linebacker Abdul Carters college debut was cut short by way of a targeting penalty early in the next quarter.

A replay review showed Carter making helmet-to-helmet connection with Boilermakers receiver Tyrone Tracy after Tracy dropped a pass close to the type of scrimmage. Carter didn’t record a tackle.

SIGN HIM UP

Just hours before kickoff former Purdue star Drew Brees became the most recent person in the Boilermaker Alliances executive board.

Although organization isn’t associated with the university, it hopes to improve $6 million to supply NIL funding for 385 Purdue athletes like the entire football and mens basketball teams. The target is to improve the profile of charitable organizations in Indiana and in the united states.

Other former Purdue stars such as for example Jim Everett, Robbie Hummel, Matt Light and Shaun Phillips are also on the board.

MAINTAINING JONES

Jones transferred from Iowa to Purdue so he could synergy with OConnell and on opening night, it appeared as if an all natural combination.

OConnell threw 19 of his 58 passes to the sixth-year receiver and Jones produced single-game career bests in receptions and yards.

We’d a sense Charlie will be a go-to guy whenever we got him here, Brohm said. He runs good routes, has good hands and ha s an excellent chemistry with Aidan and that arrived today.

UP NEXT

Penn State: Hosts Ohio on Sept. 10.

Purdue: Stays in the home Sept. 10 against Indiana State.

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Join the APs college football newsletter: https://bit.ly/3pqZVaF.

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