The Central Michigan Chippewas (1-3) sought to upset the 14th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten Conference) on the road on Saturday afternoon, briefly giving the assembled 106,624 homestanding fans a scare, but ultimately made too many self-inflicted mistakes, giving up four turnovers and a turnover-on-downs en route to a 33-14 loss in State College, Pennsylvania.
CMU once again had a tough start out of the gate, going three-and-out on their first possession, then giving up a nine-play, 56-yard touchdown drive on a Sean Clifford pass to WKU transfer Mitchell Tinsley to go down 7-0 early on. An interception on the next CMU drive allowed the Nittany Lions to double up on their lead, with Brenton Strange converting from four yards out to put Penn State up 14-0.
After forcing a three-and-out, Central seemingly woke up from their daze, putting together an 11-play, 45-yard drive which ended in an acrobatic Finn Hogan catch on a fourth-and-goal situation from the PSU four-yard line to put the score to 14-7 with 12:39 to go in the first half. They followed it up with a Joel Wilson touchdown catch on a 14-yard strike in the back of the endzone a couple drives later, knotting up the score at 14-all.
Penn State would add on another score with 1:58 remaining after forcing a CMU three-and-out on a Kaytron Allen score from 15 yards out to push the lead back to 21-14 PSU. The Nittany Lions would have another opportunity at points after DB Johnny Dixon intercepted a Daniel Richardson pass to Carlos Carriere with just over a minute remaining in the half, but the drive ultimately ended on a 57-yard field goal try.
The third quarter saw CMU’s defense force a punt just four plays in to Penn State’s first drive, but disaster struck on the ensuing punt, as returner Jordyn Williams muffed the punt from the foot of Barney Amor and failed to find it, giving PSU’s Curtis Jacobs a chance to scoop it up.
Two plays later, Sean Clifford once again found Brenton Strange for a short passing touchdown to put the score at 27-14 after Nick Apsey blocked the extra point.
CMU WR Noah Koenigsnecht appeared to score a touchdown to bring the game within seven points, but an offensive pass interference call on the other end of the field nullified the score. Two plays later, a holding call placed the ball at third-and-goal from the PSU 30, and Koenigsnecht would gain 25 to give CMU another chance to score. They failed to do so, turning the ball over on downs.
Penn State would score on the next drive on a Sean Clifford QB sneak to end a 12-play, 53-yard drive lasting over 5:31 of game clock, giving Penn State the 33-14 lead.
The next possession saw CMU score a touchdown with tight end Joel Wilson— but this score too would get called back on a holding penalty at the line of scrimmage. Now facing first-and-goal from the PSU 30 after penalties, Carlos Carriere had seemingly gotten most of the yardage back on an open route down the middle, but Kalen King forced the ball out and Penn State recovered.
CMU wouldn’t get past midfield for the rest of the game, with Penn State ultimately walking away with a 33-14 win in Happy Valley.
Daniel Richardson once again had a streaky day at the QB position, though it should still be noted he had two extremely good passes nulled by penalties. He would finish the game 26-of-45 for 245 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions— and leave on the last drive of the game with an unknown upper body injury. Jase Bauer went 3-of-7 for 45 yards with a 12-yard rush in mop-up duty.
Carlos Carriere was the leading receiver, with 11 receptions for 111 yards, while Joel Wilson converted a fourth-down at Wildcat QB and added five receptions for 59 yards and a score. Northwood [MI] transfer Noah Koenigsnecht made an impression with three receptions for 41 yards, positioning himself well on a called-back score. Running back Lew Nichols ended up with 68 yards on the ground and an additional 16 in the receiving game.
Kyle Moretti led the CMU defensive effort with eight tackles, while Ronald Kent Jr. had seven tackles and a tackle-for-loss. Dakota Cocharan had the team’s only sack of the game. DOnte Kent had two pass break-ups to lead the team.
For Penn State, Sean Clifford finished 23-of-34 for 217 yards and four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) on the day, ceding to Drew Allar (2-of-5, 20 yards) late in the game.
Brenton Strange continued to be a primary target for Penn State, with two touchdowns in five receptions, gaining 42 yards. Parker Washington led PSU with six catches for 64 yards, while Mitchell Tinsley (four catches, 51 yards) had the other receiving score.
Kaytron Allen broke out for a 100+ yard day, picking up 111 yards on 13 attempts with no yards lost, while Nick Singleton had some key conversions late and finished with 42 yards on 12 carries.
It was a turnover bonanza on defense, as Zakee Wheatley and Johnny Dixon nothced interceptions in the first half, while Curtis Jacobs recovered the muffed punt on special teams and Kalen King recovered his own strip on Carriere’s fourth-quarter reception.
The secondary also broke up an incredible 13 passes, with King’s four break-ups pacing the defense. Dixon and Joey Porter Jr. each got three, with three other defenders notching a solo stop apiece.
PJ Mustifer led Penn State in tackles with six, while Dani Denis-Sutton had two sacks and two tackles-for-loss.
CMU will open up MAC play against the Toledo Rockets, while Penn State takes on Northwestern, with both games set for a 3:30 p.m. kick on Saturday, Oct. 1.