#1 2022 Penn State-Utah Rose Bowl
Yogi Berra gave us one of the greatest quotes ever when he said “It’s like Deja Vu all over again”. It kind of felt like the 2022 season was similar to the 2016 campaign. Both seasons started out with the Nittany Lions unranked. Both squads had veteran quarterbacks, dynamic backfields, and plenty of question marks surrounding them.
The season began with us opening on the road against Purdue. In a game that many predicted would be a loss, the Lions squandered an 11-point halftime lead before regaining it with a Keandre Lambert-Smith 29-yard TD reception. That lead was short-lived, however, as Clifford threw a 72-yard pick-six, giving Purdue the lead halfway through the 4th quarter.
In shades of 2016, the defense stiffened and Penn State got the ball back with 2:22 remaining in the contest. Shaking off his previous gaffe, Clifford led the Lions down the field, ultimately hitting Keyvone Lee for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 57 seconds left.
Penn State rolled over their next three opponents and beat Northwestern 17-7 to run their record to 5-0 and a #10 ranking. For the 6th game they traveled to Michigan and while the Lions had a one-point lead in the second half, the Wolverines just overpowered Penn State, as they scored 25 unanswered points to win 41-17, giving the Lions their first defeat of the season.
Last year’s Whiteout was used for Minnesota and they didn’t know what hit them, losing 45-17. With a 6-1 record, Penn State hosted #2 Ohio State. Penn State took a fourth-quarter lead when freshman Kaytron Allen had a 1-yard TD run. But four turnovers are tough to overcome against a top-5 team and Ohio State took advantage of those miscues to win 44-31.
The Nittany Lions finished out the regular season with four straight victories. For the first time in the CFP history, two Big Ten teams made the playoffs, which allowed Penn State its third trip to Pasadena since they joined the conference (they played in the Rose Bowl once in 1923).
Their opponent was the Utah Utes, the first meeting between these two programs. Oddsmakers didn’t know what to think, at one point they had Utah as 2-point favorites before the line closed down at Penn State minus 1.
Penn State scored first on a Nicholas Singleton 5-yard run late in the first quarter. Going into halftime, the score was tied, 14-14.
Almost midway through the third, Singleton gave us our last iconic play of the list.
I struggled with this last play. Initially, this was the first play that came to my mind, because of the striking similarities between Carter and Barkley’s run. After watching the game again, I almost went with Sean Clifford’s record-setting 88-yard touchdown pass to Lambert-Smith. They could easily be changed out with one another and the list wouldn’t really be different. They were both great plays.
Penn State went on to win comfortably, 35-21, setting the stage for high expectations this season.
Thus concludes my list of the Top 10 plays in the last 42 years of Penn State football history. I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them. Trips down memory lane can be fun when you’re bidding time for the year to begin.
If you think that I forgot a play, please feel free to drop me a line at my Twitter handle @JoeyHouse14.