STATE COLLEGE — Sean Clifford was cut Saturday, perhaps more than he has ever been in his Penn football career.

Clifford’s last chance to beat Ohio State in his six-year career ended with a 28-point blitz by the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter of a 44-31 victory in front of 108,433 at Beaver Stadium.

In a game that largely defined his legacy, he committed four turnovers — three interceptions and a fumble — that Ohio State turned into 24 points.

“(It’s definitely hard),” Clifford said quietly with tears in his eyes. “There were a lot of things in the game that we did very well. Obviously, we need to defend the ball better.”

The 13th-ranked Nittany Lions (3-2 Big Ten, 6-2), who were 15.5-point underdogs, battled No. 2 Ohio State (5-0, 8-0) fiercely for much of of the day and got 21 Leader -16 on a 1-yard run by Keithron Allen with 9:26 left.

The Buckeyes, who had been in control for most of the sun-drenched afternoon, then scored twice in 34 seconds to take control. Treveyon Henderson burst up the middle for a 41-yard touchdown to put Ohio State on top for good.

Two plays later, quarterback JT Tuimoloau beat right tackle Bryce Effner, knocked the ball out of Clifford’s right hand and recovered a fumble at the Penn State 24-yard line. On the next snap, CJ Stroud found tight end Cade Stover over the middle for a touchdown and a 30-21 lead.

“They’re a really talented team,” Lions coach James Franklin said. “I thought we played. We were able to overcome losses in the first half and stay in the game.

“But you can’t turn the ball over that many times against an opponent like that and think you’re going to be successful.”

Jake Pinegar made a 44-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 30-24 with 5:49 left before Ohio State scored two more with Henderson’s 7-yard run and Tuimolau’s 14-yard field goal. The Buckeyes scored four touchdowns in 6:09. The lions did not know what hit them.

Tuimoloau was a disruptive force with two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two interceptions.

“A loss is a loss in my book,” cornerback Joey Porter Jr. said. “We had them where we wanted them going in the fourth quarter. We had about eight minutes left and we were still asleep. It just went ugly fast. You just have to finish and fight.”

Stroud was brilliant, completing 26 of 33 passes for 354 yards and one touchdown and showing why he is a top Heisman Trophy candidate. Penn State recruit Marvin Harrison Jr. had 10 receptions for 187 yards.

Bucky drove 75 yards for two touchdowns in the final nine minutes against a depleted Lions defense. They had just 263 yards before gaining 189 in the final quarter. Henderson had just 23 yards on 11 carries before his 41-yard TD run.

“Ohio State did a great job of switching on us in the fourth quarter and getting up to speed, getting the ball and just going,” safety J-Air Brown said of the Buckeyes’ faster pace. “They weren’t checking with me anymore (looking to the sideline for play calls).

“They rushed us to set up and rushed us to evaluate their offensive sets. They did a great job. It was a big adjustment.”

Ohio State improved to 71-5 against Big Ten opponents since 2014 and handed Penn State its sixth straight loss in the series and 11th in a row against a top-10 opponent.

Parker Washington had a great game for the Lions with 11 catches for 179 yards. Allen carried 12 times for 76 yards, while former Gov. Mifflin star Nick Singleton had 45 yards on 14 carries.

Clifford completed 32 of 47 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns. His third touchdown, a 5-yarder to Allen in the final 75 seconds, gave him 78 for his career and the school record, one more than Trace McSorley’s 77.

It was just as blank a record. No one told Clifford, who was almost at a loss for words.

“It hurts, for sure,” Clifford said when asked to describe the Lions’ emotions. “It’s difficult. It really is. You put everything into this game. If it doesn’t go your way, it will be difficult.

“We were in the game for the most part. Then… This is football. Turn of events. Momentum swing. Glory to Ohio State. They played very well.”

Penn State outshot Ohio State 482-452, but that’s just the numbers. Barring an unlikely turn of events, the Lions have been eliminated from the Big Ten East race.

“We just (have to) keep fighting,” Clifford said. “Definitely difficult. I’m thrilled with how it turned out. We are a really good football team. We really are.”