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Penn State Football Struggles During First Quarter In Northwestern Victory

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Nick Singleton was waiting in the end zone for Northwestern to kick off the fifth Penn State football game of the year.

As the ball landed in his hands, Singleton watched it happen. From the other side of the field, he saw the Northwestern special teams squad sprinting in his direction. And he observed as Braden Turner of the Wildcats, who was downed on Penn State’s 11-yard line, was hit by the ball as it flew out of his hands and underneath him.

The Nittany Lions’ first-half performance after Singleton’s fumble was a sign of things to come as they went on to thrash Northwestern 41-13.

The Wildcats’ first offensive drive of the game began just outside of Penn State’s end zone, but they only managed to score three points as Singleton’s teammates saved him.

“If we’re in that type of situation, and we’re already backed up to the 10-yard line, there was nothing else we could take,” said safety Jaylen Reed after the game. “They couldn’t score, so we got to win a four-point play.”

Given the situation they were in, Reed and his teammates’ initial attempt may have been a success; but, the remainder of the first quarter did not significantly help the opposite side of the ball. Typical of Big Ten football, neither offense was able to generate much.

On the game’s first seven drives, Penn State and Northwestern combined for two field goals and five punts. Even though Penn State had a more than 20-point advantage going into the game, the Wildcats’ first touchdown in the second quarter rapidly caused tension and frustration among the crowd.

“Obviously, starting with a fumble on the kickoff return, that’s not how you want to start the game,” Franklin said. “But not only that, we put the ball on the ground three times and it just messed with our offense’s flow.”

Although it has become a recurring issue, particularly over the last two games, Franklin was reluctant to comment on his team’s offensive struggles to start the game. Following a strong punt by the Hawkeyes last week against then-No. 24 Iowa, Penn State started its first drive of the game at the six-yard line and only gained one yard before kicking the ball away.

But the Nittany Lions are accustomed to tidying up after themselves. The defense is ready to step up and keep the game close when the offense falters. Penn State has had success burying opponents when the offense succeeds like it did with a 17-point third quarter against Northwestern.

Wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith stated after the game that the defense had contributed to the offense in more ways than just helping to keep the score low. During the sluggish starts, the unit has also been successful in keeping the offense inspired and engaged.

Although Reed claimed that the defense doesn’t play every game with the expectation that it would have to save a faltering offense, the outcomes on the field are beginning to reflect that. In the opening 15 minutes of each of their five games this season, the Nittany Lions have scored a total of 33 points, making it Penn State’s lowest-scoring quarter thus far. They scored 52 points in the second quarter, 64 points in the third quarter, and 52 points in the fourth quarter, respectively, in comparison.

Franklin claimed that despite this, he is happy with how his team is performing at the moment. Low running statistics and inconsistent throwing performance are two areas that Franklin will want to address during the bye week, but as long as his defense is performing well, Franklin appears to be satisfied.

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