Star Wideouts Carry Penn State In Otherwise Underwhelming Day For Offense
It was hardly a perfect day for No. 6 Penn State football’s offense in a strange win over Villanova Saturday afternoon.
The Nittany Lions totaled 509 yards on the day, but 277 of those yards came on five explosive plays that were spread to Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington, and KeAndre Lambert-Smith. The trio of wideouts were the undisputed stars of the day while the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack sputtered against Villanova’s front seven.
“Everyone knows Jahan, people have seen Parker, and obviously KeAndre is kind of coming onto the scene with some big plays,” Sean Clifford said postgame. “I’ve seen it…It’s not new to me. It’s just new to everybody else, but I’m glad he’s making plays on a big stage now.”
After fairly tame performances through three weeks, Lambert-Smith scored his first touchdown as a Nittany Lion in grand fashion Saturday. As was the theme of the day for the wide receivers, the sophomore caught a pass near the sideline, made one cut, and burst for an 83-yard score to put Penn State up 24-3 early in the second half.
As exciting as Lambert-Smith’s day was, it wasn’t even near the top of the list of the best performances for Taylor Stubblefield’s group. Washington paced the Nittany Lions with 148 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while Dotson hauled in seven catches worth 117 yards and a score. The pair were the first receivers to both go for 100 yards in a game since KJ Hamler and Pat Freiermuth back in 2018.
Dotson’s 52-yard touchdown on Penn State’s first offensive play from scrimmage set the tone for a day that would be defined by several quick explosions. For Washington, he knew it was the beginning of an exciting day for his position group.
“It’s an energy booster,” Washington said. “We know he’s gonna make plays, and just for it to be that early in the game..That was a good way to start fast.”
The veteran wideout’s big score certainly provided energy for not just the team, but a Beaver Stadium that was adjusting to its first noon kickoff of the season. The offense as a whole didn’t keep up that momentum on a consistent basis throughout the win, but Washington picked up where the senior left off and provided the Nittany Lions’ with the boosts they needed.
That first started with the Texas native’s 52-yard catch and run in the second quarter. Washington worked himself wide-open over the middle and, similar to Lambert-Smith, simply had no chance of being caught by Villanova’s secondary.
“It’s almost like a picture. It’s exciting,” Washington said. “Those are what us receivers dream of and the plays that we look forward to. I was excited to have one today.”
After Washington secured the catch for his first score, it was all gas no breaks from there.
“It was just instinct after that,” Washington said. “I didn’t really see much. I just saw green grass and I just decided to take it.”
After scoring his first touchdown in front of fans at Beaver Stadium, Washington managed to reach the end zone one more time the following quarter. The sophomore’s 23-yard grab put Penn State up 31-3 and served as the final nail in the coffin for the Wildcats.
On a day where Clifford noted that Penn State’s offense should’ve broken records, the trio of starting wideouts truly did what they were supposed to do against an inferior FCS opponent. Accounting for 353 of Penn State’s offensive yards, the group couldn’t feel better as it hits its stride entering Big Ten play, especially in how they’re pushing each other on a constant basis.
“This year is way different. We’re much closer, and it’s just we’re friends,” Washington said. “We’re excited to see each other make plays.”
“Coach Franklin talks about it all the time. It’s like, the most competitive environment in college football. We embrace that every day. We compete, we talk trash, but at the end of the day we’re teammates.”
Despite the lack of production for the run game, it certainly was a positive to see Penn State’s receivers pick up the slack for Mike Yurcich’s entire unit. Entering a gauntlet of Big Ten play, the Nittany Lions will need the trio’s speed and athleticism to create explosive plays. If Washington and Lambert-Smith can stay hot while Dotson continues to do his thing, that becomes a scary prospect for opposing defenses.
“I think you guys know how we feel about Parker. You guys saw flashes of it last year. I think we have to get KeAndre more involved, he obviously showed what he can do when he gets opportunities and he needs to take advantage of them,” Franklin said. ” I think it becomes even more difficult to stop for people when they’re focused on Jahan Dotson… then all sudden Parker has a huge game.”
Each of the wideouts will have a great opportunity to once again prove themselves when Indiana comes to Beaver Stadium next Saturday. The Hoosiers have had a solid pass defense thus far, as they’ve given up just three touchdowns through the air this season and are averaging 294.3 yards allowed.
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