UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (AP) — Sean Clifford threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead No. 7 Penn State to a 28-21 win over No. 16 Michigan on Saturday night.
The Nittany Lion quarterback hit KJ Hamler on 25- and 53-yard scoring strikes and hooked up with tight end Pat Freiermuth for a 17-yard touchdown in a game Penn State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) never trailed.
Hamler, who had a 100-yard kickoff return to start the second half called back on a holding penalty, finished with six catches for 108 yards.
The Wolverines battled back from a 21-7 halftime deficit and with just over two minutes to play, had a chance to tie the game on fourth-and-goal from Penn State’s 3. But Michigan wideout Ronnie Bell dropped what would’ve been the tying touchdown with Penn State safety Lamont Wade playing tight coverage.
The Nittany Lions took control of the game early. Clifford hooked up with Jahan Dotson for 37 yards to set up the scoring toss to Freiermuth who beat Khaleke Hudson in coverage.
Penn State went up 14-0 on its next drive when Clifford scored on a 1-yard run made easier by a 44-yard rush from Ricky Slade. It got easier when back-to-back Michigan offside penalties moved the ball to the 1.
Tariq Castro-Fields intercepted a Shea Patterson screen pass midway through the second quarter and Clifford arced his second touchdown pass to Hamler five plays later to make it 21-0.
The Wolverines cut Penn State’s lead to 21-7 with an eight-play drive that burned 4:27 before halftime. It ended with Zach Charbonnet beating Penn State defenders to the end zone on a 12-yard run.
Charbonnet added another 12-yard run with 1:05 left in the third to make it 21-14. Patterson, who completed 24 of 41 passes for 276 yards, plunged in from a yard out to cap the scoring in the fourth.
No. 6 Wisconsin lost on a last-second field goal to Illinois earlier in the day, leaving room for the Nittany Lions to move up with the win.
Michigan: The Wolverines did a solid job against Penn State’s high-pressure defense gashing the Nittany Lions for a season-high 417 yards. They had all the momentum in the final quarter and had the look they wanted on the fourth down play that turned out to be the difference.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions often look like they only have enough offense for half a game. They averaged seven yards per play in the first half but just 1.9 in the second until Hamler’s 53-yard touchdown catch.
Michigan hosts Notre Dame on Saturday.
Penn State visits Michigan State on Saturday.