STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — The script has been flipped from the worst start in school history in 2020 to a perfect 5-0 start in 2021, No. 4 Penn State takes down Indiana 24-0.
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The Nittany Lions started the 2020 season with an 0-5 record that all began with a 36-35 overtime loss to Indiana on a controversial two-point conversion from Hoosiers QB Michael Penix Jr.
The 2021 edition featured improved play from QB Sean Clifford and a record-setting performance from the QB and WR Jahan Dotson.
Clifford finished 17-for-33 with 178 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 58 yards on 10 carries. Dotson finished with 84 yards on eight receptions and two touchdowns. RB Keyone Lee lead the rush attack with 74 yards on 8 carries. Penn State finished with 209 rushing yards, improved from 80 against Villanova last week.
How it happened
Penn State started slow, forced to punt on its first drive of the game. But quickly responded with a methodical 13 play, 80 yard drive capped off by a 10-yard Clifford to Brenton Strange connection to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. That was the tight end’s second touchdown of the season.
Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. struggled early completing just three of his first 12 pass attempts. But the Indiana defense capitalized on the next Nittany Lion offensive possession: a timely interception from the Hoosiers Raheem Layne plus a 23-yard return. Indiana would take over on the 13-yard line.
This is where that top-five caliber Penn State defense is pretty incredible surrendering zero points and forcing a turnover on downs.
Penn State immediately responds with the school-record-tying touchdown from Clifford to his favorite target, Dotson.
Penn State would fall flat the rest of the first half, finishing the second quarter with three straight punts. The Blue and White would lead at the half 14-0. The Nittany Lions received the second half kickoff and were also forced to punt on that drive.
From there, Penn State returned to the run game and found success on their second drive of the second half. Clifford finishes off the nine play, 61 yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown strike to Dotson. This score broke the school record for touchdowns by a tandem with 18 TD connections for Clifford and Dotson.
Sean Clifford’s ability to create time and find a receiver downfield has been the biggest change in his game since 2020.— Allie Berube (@allieberube) October 3, 2021
I think we saw a lot more scramble & keep from the Penn State QB last year… I like that he’s not trying to do it all himself.
The record was previously held by QB Todd Blackledge and Kenny Jackson with 17 touchdowns. Blackledge was on the broadcast team for abc’s primetime game inside Beaver Stadium.
Hey that @Todd_Blackledge guy got a big cheer here in Beaver Stadium… anyone know him?— Allie Berube (@allieberube) October 3, 2021
Catch his call right now on abc27 for Indiana/Penn State @bhofheimer_espn
(Photos via AP) pic.twitter.com/FDTqBknjGG
Jahan Dotson is going to be a top 10 pick!! 🙏🏽👿🦁— Micah Parsons (@MicahhParsons11) October 3, 2021
Jordan Stout chipped in a 50-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to push the lead to 24-0.
Indiana quarterback Penix was injured in the game, left through the tunnel and did not return to action.
Penn State heads to No. 5 Iowa on Saturday, October 9 at 4 p.m. It is the first road game for the Nittany Lions since the season opening win over Wisconsin 16-10.