No. 11 Penn State beats Rutgers for the 16th straight time

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – James Franklin picked up his 100th career coaching victory by seeing No. 11 Penn State make big plays in every phase of the game.

Sean Clifford ran for a touchdown and threw for another and the Nittany Lions scored twice on fumble returns and once on a kickoff return in beating Rutgers 55-10 Saturday.

Freshman Nick Singleton scored on a 100-yard kickoff return, Kobe King gave Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) the lead for good with a 14-yard fumble return and Ji'Ayir Brown rumbled 70 yards with another fumble as the Nittany Lions blew it open in the second half.

“We’re playing really good complementary football,” Franklin said. “We scored three non-offensive touchdowns, which is special. We’re playing really good on defense.”

Clifford (17 of 26 for 157 yards) threw a 10-yard TD pass to Tyler Warren and scored on a 14-yard run as the Nittany Lions beat Rutgers (4-7, 1-7) for the 16th straight time.

Penn State led 28-10 at the half and the game was all but over after Curtis Jacobs sacked freshman quarterback Gavin Wimsatt on the fourth play of the second half and Brown picked up the fumble and had a clear path to the end zone.

“I thought we were dominant,” said Jacobs, who felt the scoop and score turned the momentum. “We had a little mishap early, but we were able to get back to where we were supposed to be.”

The last time Penn State scored on offense, defense and special teams in a game was in 2017 against Indiana.

Freshman Kaytron Allen rushed for 117 yards and scored on an 8-yard run as Penn State won its third straight. The Nittany Lions defense limited Rutgers to 167 yards and forced three turnovers that led to 21 points.

Freshman quarterback Gavin Wimsatt (10-of-29 for 122) threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Shameen Jones in the first quarter to give Rutgers its last last at 10-7. The Scarlet Knights have lost 37 straight games to ranked opponents, a run that dates to 2009. The 55 points were the most it has allowed this season.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said his team’s margin of error is very slim. He felt the biggest play might have happened in the second quarter with his team trailing 14-10. Penn State punt Barney Amor mishandled a snap and was tackled near his own 20-yard line.

An offside penalty allowed Penn State to keep possession.

“We’re not quite good enough yet to overcome that,” Schiano said, noting later he sincerely believes that Scarlet Knights are getting better as a program and will challenge for a league title down the road.

DYNAMIC DUO

Singleton and Allen are the first two freshmen in conference history to run for at least 700 yards for the same team.

“It just shows that we’re doing something right as (an offensive line) unit,” lineman Sam Wormley said. “That our running backs are able to trust us and hit the holes and believe in our blocks and we’re going to make that block. It just shows that as a unit, we’re all coming together.”

NOTES: … Singleton’s return was the first for Penn State since Lamont Wade had a 100-yarder against Michigan State in 2020. … It was the second kickoff returned for a TD against Rutgers this season. Jaylin Lucas of Indiana opened a game here with a 93-yarder earlier this month. King’s TD was the Nittany Lions’ first fumble return for a TD since Torrence Brown had a 9-yard return in 2016. … Rutgers punter Adam Korsak punted 12 times and now has an NCAA record 339 attempts, breaking the old mark of 337 set by Alexander Kinal of Wake Forest (2012-15). His 14,876 yards punting is also a record, betting old mark of 14,546 by Derek Admas of Kent State-Northwestern (2016-2021).

THE TAKEAWAY

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are still in the running for a major bowl berth. If No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan get berths in the college football playoffs, if might be the Rose Bowl. The two undefeated team meet next Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have lost four straight and their hopes for a second-straight postseason game are over.

UP NEXT:

Penn State: plays host to Michigan State.

Rutgers: at Maryland.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.