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‘Poised’ Christian Veilleux Shines For Penn State In Win Over Rutgers

It’s safe to say it was a wild week for Penn State football.

After Penn State’s 28-0 win over Rutgers, head coach James Franklin said 21 players were out Saturday with the flu, and another 14 played through the illness. Sean Clifford was one of the players who tried to play through the flu, which is why he was forced to depart late in the first quarter.

In came true freshman quarterback Christian Veilleux, who before Saturday, never took a snap in a college game. The Canadian didn’t even play his senior season of high school due to the pandemic, so it had been quite a while since the recently named QB2 had taken in-game snaps.

Well, he didn’t disappoint. He completed 15-of-24 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. From the start, the signal-caller looked poised and comfortable. Veilleux made big throws when he needed to, and he even made some big-time plays with his legs.

Franklin said even Veilleux was a question mark heading into the game, as he was one of the several players who dealt with the flu during the week. However, he evidently was able to battle through it, and his coach was impressed with the quarterback’s performance.

“I was proud of him for just how poised he was today,” Franklin said. “Very poised, made some plays with his leg, made some big-time throws, made some checks. So, obviously it’s something to build on.”

Part of Veilleux’s progression this season has been simply getting more reps in practice as the season has gone on, That, paired with learning the playbook better, has allowed Veilleux to take a step forward.

“His grasp and understanding of the playbook and knowing it inside out, and being able to adjust protections,” Franklin said. When you see a young quarterback in there, what are you gonna do? You’re going to light him up with blitzes and pressures. It’s not just knowing the plays, you got to know your plays so well, that you can focus on the defense.”

One of Veilleux’s three touchdowns was to sophomore wideout Parker Washington. With pressure in his face, Veilleux tossed a nicely thrown ball to Washington, who made an impressive catch to put Penn State ahead 14-0.

Washington called Veilleux a “natural leader and a great guy,” adding that when Veilleux came in, he executed well and it was like nobody ever left.

“I feel like when anybody gets that type of opportunity, they’re gonna be excited to step up and make a play,” Washington said. “I feel like that led to more confidence and eagerness to make plays like [Veilleux] did today.”

To no one’s surprise, Jahan Dotson was the recipient of one of Veilleux’s touchdowns. Late in the first half, Dotson hauled in the signal-caller’s first-career touchdown pass.

Dotson went out of his way after the game to praise Veilleux and the job he did Saturday afternoon leading the Nittany Lions.

“I want to give a big shoutout to Christian Veilleux,” Dotson said. “Stepped in tremendously. It’s a tough job coming out here playing in front of a lot of people freshman year. I know it was tough for me, so I couldn’t imagine being in his shoes as the quarterback leading the ship. So, I just want to give a big shoutout to him. He did a great job leading us today.”

Many fans and people outside the program had no idea what to expect from Veilleux once it was clear he coming into the game. Heck, who could blame them? No one has seen him play at the collegiate level except for those who practice with him every day.

As one of the few people who’ve seen Veilleux practice, Dotson wasn’t surprised at all with what the Canadian went out and did against Rutgers.

“I’ve been practicing with him for months now,” Dotson said. “He’s a tremendous talent, has a tremendous arm, tremendous leadership skills. This was no surprise for me. Just because I know that the kid that he is. I just can’t wait to see him develop and play in the future.”

There’s plenty to talk about when it comes to Veilleux’s performance on Saturday. You have the three touchdowns, the 235 yards, the crisp 63% completion percentage. However, for Dotson, it was Veilleux’s poise that stood out.

“His poise [impressed me the most],” Dotson said. “He was very poised, never seemed to get rattled at any moment in the game. Stayed calm, made the right reads. He had a tremendous game. It was everything and more that you can ask for in a freshman quarterback. I’m just excited to see what he’s going to do later down the line.”

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a junior majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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