Freshman backs power No. 22 Penn State past Auburn, 41-12
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
By JUSTIN FERGUSON
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen combined for 176 rushing yards and four touchdowns as No. 22 Penn State cruised to a 41-12 win at Auburn on Saturday.
The Nittany Lions' freshman running backs were instrumental in the red zone. Penn State (3-0) scored touchdowns on each of its first four trips inside the 20-yard line. Quarterback Sean Clifford passed for 178 yards.
"The ability to be more balanced and take pressure off the passing game has been really important for us," said Penn State coach James Franklin. "We also have some dynamic backs that can help create some explosive plays."
The Penn State defense forced four turnovers by Auburn (2-1) and also held Tigers star running back Tank Bigsby to 39 rushing yards.
Auburn quarterback T.J. Finley had 152 passing yards, an interception and a lost fumble before being replaced in the second half by Robby Ashford.
Penn State led by one point late in the second quarter before Allen scored his first of two touchdowns. After Auburn opened the third quarter with a three-and-out, Singleton broke a 54-yard run and found the end zone two plays later.
The Nittany Lions scored 20 more points in the second half to pull away for the comfortable win in what was the first game against a Big Ten opponent for Auburn inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"We're disappointed in the performance," Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin said. "We're disappointed in the loss. ... You can look at the stats. It's pretty matter-of-fact."
Penn State: The Nittany Lions dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which is a major step forward for Franklin's program. Penn State still has time to grow, too, considering the number of newcomers who are playing key roles so far this season.
Auburn: The pressure on Harsin will only increase. The loss was Auburn's fifth straight to a Power Five team. On top of the four turnovers, the Tigers' offense was unable to establish a consistent rushing attack and allowed a large amount of pressure in the passing game.
"The key is, really, how we handle the disappointment," Harsin said. "... We still have a long season ahead of us. There's still a lot of football to play."
A HISTORIC STATE-MENT
The 29-point win tied Penn State's second-largest margin of victory over an SEC team, matching the win over Auburn in the 1996 Outback Bowl. The Nittany Lions' biggest victory over an SEC team came in 1978, a 30-point win over Kentucky.
"There haven't been too many teams in the history of the Big Ten to come on the road and get a win in the SEC," Franklin said. "So we're very, very proud of that."
GROUND AND POUND
Penn State finished with 245 rushing yards to Auburn's 119. The Nittany Lions averaged 6.3 yards per carry, which is the most the Tigers have allowed since a 2020 loss to Texas A&M.
"We emphasized it all week long, and we were able to make (Auburn) one-dimensional, to a degree," Franklin said. "Obviously, there's some things we've gotta get cleaned up in the passing game. But that was the plan. We wanted to put (Finley) in a position to beat us, and I think we did that."
THE TURNOVER BATTLE
Franklin called Auburn's four turnovers to Penn State's zero "the story of the game." Through three games this season, the Tigers have not had a single defensive takeaway and currently sit at minus-8 in turnover margin.
Penn State made its season debut in the poll this week and has a good chance to move up after a big win on the road.
Penn State returns home to face Central Michigan next Saturday. Auburn hosts Missouri in its SEC opener next Saturday.
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Updated September 17, 2022