By Harvey Hoffman
Sean Clifford completed 22 of 34 passes for 217 yards and accounted for four touchdowns for the Nittany Lions, who forced four turnovers to beat Central Michigan 33-14..
The Chippewas racked up 363 yards.
Tight end Brenton Strange caught two touchdowns and wideout Mitchell Tinsley caught one. Clifford and Kaytron Allen added touchdown runs for the Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) who steadily pulled away.
Penn State players were hoping for something more demonstrative with Northwestern up next and a trip to No. 4 Michigan looming on Oct. 15.
“There’s a certain standard in this program,” defensive tackle PJ Mustipher said. “I told the guys after the game that we’ve got to come out hot, we’ve got to come out better.”
Penn State’s offense did that.
Clifford marched Penn State down the field and hit Tinsley over the middle from 5 yards out to start the scoring. He got another shot on a short field when Zakee Wheatley picked off Daniel Richardson on Central Michigan’s eighth play of the day and returned it to the Chippewa 15.
Clifford needed just three plays from there to find Strange on a 4-yard quick out that made it 14-0.
The Chippewas (1-3) got their offense going in the second quarter. Richardson capped an 11-play drive by hitting Finn Hogan over the middle from two yards out to make it 14-7.
Central Michigan forced a turnover on downs moments later and Richardson found open receivers again. He ended a 9-play, 67-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Joel Wilson that tied it at 14.
Scoreless possessions followed before the Nittany Lions retook the lead with a 14-yard touchdown run from Allen. Penn State led 21-14 at halftime.
The Chippewas turned the ball over again to start the second half.
They forced the Nittany Lions to punt on their first third-quarter possession but return man Jordyn Williams fumbled the ball to Penn State’s Curtis Jacobs inside the 10.
Two plays later, Clifford found Strange for another short touchdown toss. Central Michigan blocked Jake Pinegar’s extra point try, but Penn State’s 27-14 lead was enough.
“I’m proud of the way our team fought,” Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain said. “I thought the guys never quit. That team on the other side knew what the Chippewas were all about toward the end of that game and that’s something that makes me proud.”
A 1-yard run from Clifford before a failed two-point conversion try early in the fourth made it 33-14.
Richardson finished 26-for-45 for 235 yards. Allen led Penn State with 111 yards on 13 carries.