Penn State may have fallen behind in the Big Ten championship hunt in October, but a 10-2 season is nothing to be ashamed of. The Nittany Lions went on the road into the land of the SEC and returned home with a victory. It had star freshmen on both sides of the ball leave their marks. And they have a bright future ahead of them after a 10-win season helping to send Penn State to a big bowl game.
The 2022 season doesn't have a Big Ten championship to celebrate but it does have plenty of praise to be shared for players and moments throughout the season. Here are some team awards for Penn State following its regular season and what to look forward to in 2023.
Offensive MVP: Sean Clifford, QB
The sixth-year senior quarterback will end his Penn State career as the program's all-time leading passer. With a big-time freshman waiting in the wings, Clifford never gave Penn State head coach James Franklin a reason to make any big changes with the offense. Instead, Clifford turned in a solid season leading the offense and served as a mentor to his successor waiting for his shot in 2023.
Defensive MVP: Ji'Ayir Brown, S
The return of Brown did not disappoint for the Penn State defense. He has three interceptions to lead the team and he returned a fumble 70 yards for a defensive touchdown. Brown also recorded a team-leading 67 tackles and appeared in all 12 games during the regular season.
Best Freshman: Abdul Carter, LB
The dynamic running back duo of Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen may have been the spark the offense needed, but one of the top freshmen this season played on defense. Carter finished the regular season with the second-most tackles on the team (55) with a team-leading 10.5 for a loss, along with 6.5 sacks. And he's just getting started.
Best Play of the Season: Nick Singleton drags a Maryland defender into the end zone
You can take your pick from almost any one of Singleton's touchdown runs this season, including his long ones at Auburn. But perhaps one of the most impressive runs he had this season came much more recently with a fourth-and-one touchdown run against Maryland where he practically dragged a defender with him on his way to the end zone.
Best Performance (Player): Parker Washington vs. Ohio State
Washington had a bit of a slow start to the season, but he saved his best performance for a big home game against Ohio State. The wide receiver racked up a season-high 179 yards and a touchdown against the Buckeyes. It was his only 100-yard game of the season, which ended prematurely with an injury in mid-November.
Best Performance (Team): A blowout in SEC country
Auburn may not have been a great team this season, but Penn State turned in an eye-opening performance down south in Jordan-Hare Stadium that's the highlight of the season to this point. In the second game of the home-and-home series, the Nittany Lions romped on the Plains with a 41-12 victory highlighted by big plays by freshman running back Nick Singleton and the defense forcing four turnovers. It was arguably the best all-around team performance of the season from start to finish.
Defining Moment: November's dominance
After taking big losses in October against Michigan and Ohio State, Penn State could have easily packed it in for the year in November and just gone through the motions until it finished the season. Instead, the Nittany Lions turned things up a notch and dominated their competition in the final month of the season. Penn State outscored its November opponents 165-40. As a result, Penn State played its way into position for a New Year's Six bowl game.
Biggest Surprise: Olu Fashanu's NFL draft decision
One of the hottest rising offensive linemen in the draft pool this season had been Fashanu. But rather than strike while the iron is hot with his draft stock, Fashanu decided to return to the program for the 2023 season, giving Penn State a massive piece up front to count on.
Biggest Disappointment: Another year chasing Wolverines and Buckeyes
For all of the successes of the season with a 10-2 record, it is the two losses that will stand out to most. Penn State was a very good team this season but double-digit losses to Michigan and Ohio State continued to show just how far the Nittany Lions have to go to get to the next level to be a Big Ten contender and compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Senior Who Will Be Missed the Most: Ji'Ayir Brown, S
Penn State will be missing a few notable defensive players, but Brown may be the biggest for next season. Penn State was fortunate to have him back in 2022, but filling his shoes will be a challenge next fall.
Player to Watch in 2023: Drew Allar, QB
With Sean Clifford moving on, all eyes will be on Allar. He got some opportunities to get some game experience in comfortable spots this season and he will be the starter in 2023. Christian Veilleux entered the transfer portal, leaving no competition for Allar to be Clifford's successor. Allar is considered one of the best quarterback recruits to join the Penn State program, and fans should be excited to watch him develop and lead the offense next fall.