No. 12 Penn State earned its second defeat of a ranked opponent in three games by taking down No. 20 Auburn 28-20 for a rare victory against an SEC team.
Senior quarterback Sean Clifford threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns, while shouldering most of the offensive load as the Nittany Lions struggled to establish their running game.
The victory against Auburn was the first against the SEC for Penn State since beating LSU in the Citrus Bowl at the end of the 2009 season. Its last regular-season defeat of an SEC team came in 1990 at Alabama. And it came during the annual White Out game.
Clifford, who was benched during the team's five-game losing streak at the start of last season, was flawless throughout, including completions on his first 12 passes of the second half while leading two touchdown drives.
He outplayed counterpart Bo Nix, who was 21-of-37 for 171 yards, as Auburn lost for the first time in Bryan Harsin's first season after easy wins against Akron and Alabama State when the Tigers scored 60 points in both games.
Penn State opened the scoring in the second half with the help of a fumble by Auburn receiver Kobe Hudson, who was looking to throw on a trick play on the first snap of the third quarter. The Nittany Lions recovered on the Tigers 20 and scored four plays later on Tyler Warren's 2-yard run.
Noah Cain's 4-yard touchdown put the Nittany Lions ahead 28-20 in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for a key defensive stand. Auburn drove to the Penn State 2, but NIx's fourth-down pass to Hudson in the end zone was incomplete.
The Tigers would get the ball back for one final drive, reaching the Nittany Lions 26. But Nix's pass as time expired was knocked down.
The first half went back and forth as Auburn scored first on a 45-yard field goal by Anders Carlson on its opening drive after stopping Penn State on a fourth-and-1.
The Nittany Lions responded with Clifford going 4-for-4 for 73 yards on a touchdown drive that was capped by Jahan Dotson's 4-yard catch.
Tank Bigsby put the Tigers back ahead with a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter before Clifford found Brenton Strange for a 2-yard score to put Penn State ahead 14-10 at the break.
Nix had just 99 yards passing at the break as the Nittany Lions outgained Auburn 259-158.
Follow colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football: No. 12 Penn State hands SEC team 28-20 loss