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No. 6 Penn State Rolls Past Villanova 38-17

No. 6 Penn State football (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) took down Villanova (3-1) 38-17 Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.

Sean Clifford led the Nittany Lions with 401 passing yards through the air, while Parker Washington, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, and Jahan Dotson each reached the end zone on deep connections.

Penn State’s rushing attack struggled to get much going throughout the day, but those big scores and a consistent day for the defense were enough to take down the Wildcats. A couple of late scores for Villanova made the score fairly tight, but the Nittany Lions had this one in control for most of the afternoon.

How It Happened

Villanova received the opening kick and got things going with a nine-yard carry for Justin Covington. However, a loss forced by Brandon Smith and a penalty stopped the Wildcats’ drive before it could even get started.

Sean Clifford and the Penn State offense wasted no time from there. On the first play from scrimmage for Mike Yurcich’s crew, Clifford found Jahan Dotson wide open for a 58-yard score. The beautiful connection gave the Nittany Lions a 7-0 lead just 2:01 into the game.

The Nittany Lions’ defense forced another three-and-out on Villanova’s ensuing possession, and Penn State took over on its own 27 for its second drive of the game. The offense managed to put together a solid start with carries from Keyvone Lee and Noah Cain, but it stalled out on the Wildcats’ 36. Jordan Stout trotted out to attempt a 53-yard field goal, but he missed wide right, and the Nittany Lions stayed up a touchdown.

Villanova moved the chains for the first time Saturday on a screen to DeeWil Barlee and managed to drive into Nittany Lions’ territory. Ji’Ayir Brown grabbed an interception off a tipped pass to seeminly shut that down, but a roughing the passer call on Dvon Ellies kept things going for the Wildcats.

Kicker Cole Bunce capitalized by nailing a 39-yarder, and Penn State led 7-3 with 1:21 to go in the first quarter.

Penn State’s offense exploded to start the next quarter of play, as Parker Washington capped off a 75-yard drive by going untouched en route to a 52-yard score. The Nittany Lions were quickly up 14-3 with 14:07 left in the first half.

Washington stayed hot on the ensuing possession by juking his way to a 67-yard gain and nearly reached the end zone. The sophomore wideout stepped out at the nine, however, and Penn State couldn’t punch it in from there. The seven-play, 65-yard drive finished with a 29-yard field goal for Stout that gave the Nittany Lions a 17-3 lead.

Another ugly Villanova drive, highlighted by a sack by PJ Mustipher, quickly returned the ball to Penn State. An inconsistent run game held the Nittany Lions back, however, and Stout was forced to return for a punt from Villanova’s 43. The special teams star pinned the Wildcats on their own five, and they couldn’t get anything going with their backs to the student section.

A couple of indecisive looks for Clifford didn’t let to anything productive for Penn State on its final drive of the half, however, and the Nittany Lions went to the locker room still up 14. While the offense wasn’t consistent through the first 30 minutes, Brent Pry’s defense allowed just 52 total yards to Villanova through the first half.

The second half got off to an emotional start when Villanova’s Tyler Will was injured on the opening kickoff. The tight end was down for several minutes, and received a standing ovation from Beaver Stadium as he was carted off the field.

Two plays into Penn State’s drive, Clifford scrambled and found KeAndre Lambert-Smith open along the sideline. The sophomore cut back to the open field and went untouched for an 83-yard score, giving the Nittany Lions a 24-3 lead early in the third quarter.

A rare ugly kickoff from Stout followed, however, and Villanova got to starts its drive on the 35-yard line. A big connection for Daniel Smith and Rayjoun Pringle got the Wildcats deep into Penn State territory, but a tipped pass by Tariq Castro-Fields landed in Brown’s arms. The Nittany Lions failed to get much going on the next possession, however.

Later in the third quarter, Clifford had Lambert-Smith open, but the sophomore had an ugly bobble that handed an easy interception to Kshawn Schulters.

An Arnold Ebiketie sack on third down handed the ball back to the Nittany Lions, and the offense put together an eight-play, 72-yard scoring drive. Strong runs from John Lovett paced Penn State on the possession, but it was Washington who scored his second touchdown of the day on a pretty 23-yard post route.

The offense kept rolling from there. Another stop quickly returned the ball to the Nittany Lions, and a pretty 30-yard completion to Dotson set Penn State up deep in Villanova territory. Yurcich went to the wildcat to close out the drive, and Tyler Warren punched it in to make it 38-3 early in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats managed to respond, however, as they scored their first touchdown of the day on a 57-yard bomb to Pringle. That made it 38-10 Penn State with 9:42 to play, and reserves checked in for the Nittany Lions on either side of the ball, including quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson.

Villanova grabbed another late score while Penn State’s offense didn’t do much late. Smith hit Pringle once again on a 17-yard connection, and that made it 38-17 Nittany Lions with just 1:28 to play.

The Wildcats nearly had another score on what was ruled on the field as a Tank Smith fumble, but the call was reversed and Penn State was able to kneel out the rest of the game for the victory.

Takeaways

  • Speed kills. Villanova just couldn’t keep up with Penn State’s athletes on the edge for much of this afternoon, and that was proven immediately. Sean Clifford threw a dime to Jahan Dotson for an easy 52-yard score on the Nittany Lions’ first offensive play, while Parker Washington also had a 52-yard scoring scamper in which he ran by just about everyone on Villanova’s defense. The second half was highlighted by an 83-yard catch and run by KeAndre Lambert-Smith that put Penn State up 24-3, and yet another score for Washington. The trio totaled 353 receiving yards on the day.
  • With a wealth of options to throw to, Clifford finished with some absurd stats. The quarterback’s 401 passing yards were a career high for the redshirt senior, while he also managed a completion percentage of 73.1 %. The quarterback looked indecisive in the pocket at times as he took three sacks, but overall it was a banner day for the veteran signal caller.
  • As exciting as those big plays were, the Nittany Lions’ run game and offensive line were ugly for much of the afternoon. Until John Lovett checked in and started to get some momentum on a couple of drives late, the running backs were truly a non-existent part of the offense. The rushers struggled to find holes throughout the contest, as the team finished with just 80 yards on the day. With only Big Ten defensive lines ahead, Phil Trautwein and Ja’Juan Seider will need more consistent performances from their groups.
  • The offense wasn’t always pretty, but Penn State’s defense flexed its muscles all afternoon. Villanova put up just 52 total yards of offense in the first half, and while it put together a couple of scores late, the Nittany Lions were never letting the Wildcats anywhere near the lead. Arnold Ebiketie and PJ Mustipher each had sacks, while Jaquan Brisker and Ji’Ayir Brown both impressed in the secondary.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will finish their four-game home stand with a prime-time matchup against Indiana next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Beaver Stadium and the game will be broadcast on ABC.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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