The Auburn Tigers may have lost a huge home matchup against No. 22 Penn State, but at least they can lay claim to the biggest hit of the college football season so far.
It was on the Nittany Lions' opening possession that Auburn linebacker Owen Pappoe lowered his shoulder and sent PSU quarterback Sean Clifford into The Upside Down (hopefully I have some "Stranger Things" fans in here) with what has to be the hit of the year.
I'm honestly surprised Clifford stayed in the game.
Owen Pappoe knows how to use the hit stick. pic.twitter.com/dULYeNVU5Z
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 17, 2022
Clifford couldn't find anyone downfield on a third-and-9 situation, so he took off in the open field. That looked like a good idea until Pappoe tracked him down like a heat-seeking missile and knocked him off his feet, popping the ball loose in the process. All of Jordan-Hare Stadium instantly went, "OOOOOH!!!"
It was the type of hit that should set the tone for a defense playing the 22nd-ranked team in the country. The Tigers carried the momentum from that sonic boom-like truck stick into the next play, when Penn State went for it on fourth down. Clifford attempted a quarterback sneak but was stopped short -- he was probably still trying to figure what day it was, to be fair.
Some college football fans clamored the hit was targeting, but he never led with his helmet. Clifford just never saw him coming, and his body went vertical because of it.
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) September 17, 2022
"Usually we practice our strike zone: numbers to the top of the knee caps," Pappoe told reporters afterward. "So, just to make sure you stay away from that head area in those situations. I've got to go watch the film; I think he was getting ready to slide. So it was kind of tough with a quarterback like that. I've just got to keep my head out of it and hit him with my shoulder."
While Auburn ultimately lost, 41-12, Pappoe's hit served as a "welcome to the SEC" reminder. Sorry, but they just don't hit like that in the Big Ten.