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

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

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Sean Clifford capped a masterful final drive by throwing a 10-yard TD pass to Keyvone Lee with 57 seconds left Thursday night rallying Penn State to a 35-31 victory over Purdue.

Penn State has won 10 straight in the series and six of its last seven season openers. Purdue hasn’t beaten the Nittany Lions since 2004.

Purdue was on the verge, though, after Clifford’s errant throw midway through the fourth quarter resulted in a 72-yard interception return for a score by Chris Jefferson. That gave Purdue a 31-28 lead.

Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones is tackled by Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

But Penn State’s sixth-year quarterback avenged that mistake with a masterful eight-play, 80-yard drive with less than three minutes to go. Clifford finished 20 of 37 with 282 yards and four scores despite leaving briefly in the third quarter with cramps.

And it sure wasn’t easy in front of a near-capacity crowd on the road in a game that featured seven lead changes.

King Doerue scored twice for Purdue, Aidan O’Connell threw for 356 yards and another score and he celebrated his 24th birthday by hooking up with childhood friend Charlie Jones 12 times for 153 yards and a 17-yard TD pass.

Purdue wide receiver TJ Sheffield (8) catches a tipped ball in front of Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Penn State looked like it might run away after forcing a turnover with 30 seconds left in the first half. Two plays later, Clifford found Brenton Strange, who broke two tackles on his way to a 67-yard TD with 2 seconds left to give Penn State a 21-10 lead.

But Doerue opened the second half with a score, O’Connell hooked up with Jones and Clifford threw a 29-yard scoring pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith to make it 28-24 before the finishing flurry.

THE TAKEAWAY

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

Purdue: An opening-night win certainly would have made a big statement in the wide open West. Instead, the Boilermakers lost a little momentum after winning nine games last season.

EARLY EXIT

Penn State linebacker Abdul Carter’s college debut was cut short by a targeting penalty early in the second quarter.

A replay review showed Carter making helmet-to-helmet contact with Boilermakers receiver Tyrone Tracy after Tracy dropped a pass near the line of scrimmage. Carter did not record a tackle.

UP NEXT

Penn State: Hosts Ohio on Sept. 10.

Purdue: Stays at home Sept. 10 against Indiana State.

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