Penn State, Washington among teams with ‘quiet statement wins’

Penn State running back Nick Singleton is on an ascending path to college football stardom.

The Nittany Lions’ freshman back ran all over Auburn in a dominant 41-12 victory Saturday. He totaled 124 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, guiding Penn State to a statement win over a quality SEC opponent.

James Franklin’s program has not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Miles Sanders did it in 2018. Now, three games into the 2022 campaign, it looks like Singleton is well on his way to accomplishing the feat.

“Penn State now has fixed their main issue,” FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt said. “They now have a run game to lean on, and that run game’s name is Nick Singleton.”

Klatt listed Penn State as one of three teams with “quiet statement wins” on the latest episode of his new podcast, “The Joel Klatt Show.

Penn State and Washington’s statement wins in Week 3

Joel Klatt reacts to the Penn State’s 41-12 win over the Auburn Tigers and how Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich has helped fix Penn State’s running game.

“This is one of those rare moments in college football where the guy who has to be the guy in his first year actually is the guy,” Klatt said on Singleton.

When it comes to ranking college football blue bloods, Penn State is certainly near the top of the list. Franklin has compiled a 94-49 record since arriving at PSU in 2014, which includes three double-digit win seasons. However, the past two seasons have not lived up to program standards, as the Nittany Lions went 4-5 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season and followed that with a 7-6 mark last year.

Senior quarterback Sean Clifford has taken much of the blame for the program’s shortcomings, despite being a four-year starter who has thrown for more than 8,500 yards and 67 touchdowns during his career. 

Although Clifford and the Penn State offense have had their struggles over the past two seasons, much of that can be attributed to the lack of a consistent rushing presence. Now, with Singleton leading the way, this offense looks to have a more balanced attack, which should help soften opposing defenses and allow them to be more multidimensional.

“This is the perfect scenario for Sean Clifford,” Klatt said. “He’s the type of quarterback that can be really good for you if you’re not requiring him to be perfect.”

Penn State is set to play host to Central Michigan (1-2) and Northwestern (1-2) before setting up a potential Big Ten showdown with the No. 4-ranked Michigan Wolverines on Oct. 15 in Ann Arbor.

“That’s gonna be a great game,” Klatt said. ‘I fully anticipate Penn State goes into Michigan 5-0, and I fully anticipate Michigan – if they are able to play like they’ve been playing – will also be undefeated heading into that game. That sets up a mammoth game.”

Another team that notched a “quiet statement win” in Week 3 was the Washington Huskies. Kalen DeBoer’s squad ran all over a Michigan State team that had outscored its first two opponents 87-13.

Washington QB Michael Penix dissected the Spartans’ defense, completing 24 of 40 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns, while the Huskies’ defense shut down the Spartans’ rushing attack.

“We’ve failed to remember how good Michael Penix was when he’s healthy,” Klatt said of the Huskies’ senior signal-caller. “You have a coach and QB reunited … and it’s working.”

Washington fans storm the field after upsetting No. 11 Michigan State

Washington Huskies fans storm the field after upsetting the No. 11 Michigan State Spartans.

DeBoer served as Indiana’s offensive coordinator in 2019, where Penix started under center and enjoyed a career year, guiding the Hoosiers to an impressive 8-4 mark and a spot in the Gator Bowl. 

The former Hoosier carved up the Spartans’ defense that season as well, throwing for 286 yards and three scores in a 40-31 shootout, which resulted in a loss.

Now reunited with his former OC in Washington, Penix is playing as good as any signal-caller in college football through three weeks.

“Michael Penix … good on you, sir,” Klatt said. “That was a great statement win.”

Klatt’s third team that he called out in Monday’s podcast for registering a quiet statement win was the Kansas Jayhawks.

Junior quarterback Jalon Daniels threw for 158 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 123 yards and two scores on the ground as Kansas improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2009 with an impressive 48-30 win over Houston on Saturday.

The Jayhawks’ win also marked the first time since 2007 that the program won back-to-back road games.

“It’s hard to overstate how amazing this is,” Klatt said on Kansas’ undefeated start. “Lance Leipold is doing God’s work in Lawrence, Kansas.”

Kansas Jayhawks’ amazing 3-0 start and Lance Leipold’s secret to success

oel Klatt praises the Kansas Jayhawks’ 3-0 start and explains how Lance Leipold’s program rebuild is starting to show dividends.

Leipold arrived at Kansas last season after serving as the head coach at Buffalo from 2015-20. He took over a Kansas program that was coming off a winless season (0-9) in 2020 and went 2-10 in his first season at the helm, which makes this year’s 3-0 start even more impressive. However, Klatt said fans should have seen this hot start coming.

“This didn’t come out of nowhere,” Klatt said. “There is a pattern of how you take a program that is in the weeds and how you bring them out.

“You lose big, and if you’re doing the right things and getting better, then you’ll eventually lose small. Everyone just wants to get to that point of where you’re winning, but what they don’t understand is that there is a step before that.”

Despite being just 1-8 in Big 12 play last season, the Jayhawks did pull off a memorable upset win over Texas toward the backend of their schedule. Kansas followed that game up with a close 31-28 loss to TCU and a 34-28 defeat to West Virginia.

“We should have known something was brewing,” Klatt said. “They took the steps necessary to get to where they are starting to go, which is from winning small to potentially winning big.”

Kansas is set to take on Duke in a battle of undefeated programs Saturday at 12 p.m. ET. 

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