TAMPA, Fla. (WHTM) — Penn State can’t overcome offensive struggles in second half against Arkansas and falls 24-10. The Nittany Lions finish the 2021 season 7-6, after starting on a 5-0 run.
In the Outback Bowl, Penn State would carry a 10-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. Arkansas, however, scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter off a punishing rush attack.
The notably depleted Penn State defense gave up 454 yards of total offense, including 356 yards on the ground. Six defensive starters opted out of the Outback Bowl to train for the 2022 NFL Draft, including DE Arnold Ebiketie and S Jaquan Brisker.
Without defensive cooridinator Brent Pry (who early December took the head coach job at Virginia Tech), co-DC Anthony Poindexter called the plays on the field. New DC and former Miami head coach Manny Diaz was on the sidelines but is still learning the playbook.
QB Sean Clifford played tough at times, but two costly interceptions and overthrown touchdown passes plagued his performance in the season finale. Clifford, who has already announced he will return for the 2022 season, finished the game 14-for-32 for 195 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
In the fourth quarter, Clifford was replaced by QB Christian Veilleux. The freshman started at QB in the Rutgers win on Nov. 20 while Clifford was battling the flu. It was one of just two games the Nittany Lions won since early October.
For the first time since 2001, not a single Nittany Lion rusher had over 100-yards in a game. In the Outback Bowl, the running backs Devyn Ford, Noah Cain and Keyvone Lee combined for 67 yards on 10 carries.
This was the first meeting for Penn State and Arkansas. The Razorbacks finished the 2021 season with a 9-4 record as Outback Bowl Champions.
Penn State finishes the 2021 season with a 7-6 record, after starting the year with five-straight wins.
Excluding the 2020 season due to COVID scheduling, this season matches the worst records under James Franklin. The Nittany Lions went 7-6 in each of Franklin’s first two seasons in 2014 and 2015.