No. 6 Penn State relies on explosive plays in win over Villanova 38-17

Nittany Nation

Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson (5) catches a touchdown pass in front of Villanova defensive back Christian Benford (41) during an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — The first Penn State offensive snap of the game set the tone for the rest of the game against Villanova: a 52-yard touchdown pass from Sean Clifford to Jahan Dotson. No. 6 Penn State improved to 4-0 off the victory over FCS-ranked No. 7 Villanova, 38-17.

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It was all about the explosive plays for the Nittany Lions. For the first time since 2013 against Wisconsin, Penn State had four plays for over 50 yards each. Penn State had 254 yards on those four plays of the team’s 509 total yards.

QB Clifford struggled in his second drive of the first quarter but ultimately put up impressive numbers against Villanova. The third-year starter went 19-for-26 for 401 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Clifford was sacked three times by the Wildcats.

Parker Washington led the offense with five receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Dotson chipped in seven receptions for 117 yards and one score. KeAndre Lambert-Smith is also on the scoring sheet hauling in an 83-yard Clifford touchdown pass.

John Lovett was the featured back, despite Noah Cain being announced as a starter. Lovett had 11 careers for 46 yards. TE Tyler Warren was the only back to score a touchdown on a direct snap, his second career TD at Penn State.

How it happened

Penn State first scored just 2:01 into the game on the 52-yard Clifford-Dotson connection to go up 7-0. The Nittany Lions’ second drive, however, featured three-straight incompletions for Clifford looking for receivers deep over the middle.

Jordan Stout would chip in a 39-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter after missing a 53-yarder earlier in the game.

Penn State would push the lead to 17-3 at halftime off a Clifford-Washington 52-yard touchdown, and an additional Stout 29-yard field goal.

Things opened up in the second half after a scary injury to Villanova tight end Tyler Will. On the opening kickoff of the second half, Will was injured and had to be carted off the field. According to Villanova, Will was taken to a local hospital to be evaluated for a concussion, but was fully alert with full movement before leaving the stadium.

Those tense moments as Will was being stabilized and moved to the cart shifted all the momentum to Penn State.

The Nittany Lions immediately rattled off an 83-yard touchdown pass and catch from Clifford to Lambert-Smith.

From there, Clifford chipped in his fourth touchdown pass, this one a 23-yard pass to Washington. In the fourth, TE Warren took a direct snap in for his second career touchdown to push the score to 38-3.

Villanova would score a touchdown in the fourth quarter; QB Daniel Smith finds Rayjoun Pringle for the 57-yard touchdown pass. Wildcats pushed the score to 38-10. The Wildcats closed the gap against the Nittany Lions backups as QB Smith found Pringle for another touchdown, this one 17 yards to make it 38-17.

What’s next

No. 6 Penn State turns its attention to the second Big Ten opponent of the season: Indiana. Kickoff is set for Saturday, October 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Beaver Stadium. The game will be broadcast on abc27.

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