I thought I knew what the Nittany Lions had in Jahan Dotson - a reliable, sure-handed receiver who could move the chains efficiently with the occasional potential for a big play. However, Dotson managed to up the ante against the stiffest competition that Penn State will play this season.
Dotson was not only facing a talented Buckeyes secondary, but was facing off directly with Shaun Wade, a projected top 10 draft pick this spring. It would have been understandable for Dotson to be held in check by one of the nation’s absolute best defensive backs. Instead, Dotson had a gem of a breakout performance that nearly single-handedly gave Penn State a fighting chance in the second half.
Dotson looked like part Bobby Engram, part Allen Robinson in a stunning performance that wound up being replayed over and over on SportsCenter, named as the #2 highlight of a day filled with many other jaw-dropping plays. He regularly found the holes in the Buckeyes defense, and then managed to make plays after the catch.
While Dotson was about the only steady performer from beginning to end on Saturday night, the sequence at the start of the fourth quarter that helped Penn State pull to within two scores was nothing short of mesmerizing. On third-and-17 with all hope quickly slipping away, Dotson made a play in tight coverage by Wade to somehow tip the ball away from Wade before securing it for a 37-yard gain. On the very next play, Sean Clifford stuck with his hot target on another fade route down the sideline. Dotson somehow managed to top himself, this time jumping and reaching straight into the air to snag a one-handed catch, then with perfect fluidity, ran into the end zone untouched without missing a step. Not only was it the biggest highlight-reel play of the night for either team, it will be one that will be included as one of the best plays of the season for the remainder of 2020, and perhaps beyond.
Dotson’s night ended with eight catches for 144 yards with three touchdowns. This follows a four-reception, 94 yard performance against Indiana which included a clutch touchdown to give Penn State a late lead. Dotson proved that he is much more than efficient - but someone who can be THE GUY at receiver who can create plays on his own against the opponents best cornerback.
Dotson made his name known well outside of Happy Valley on Saturday night, in a trend that looks to continue as the junior aims to be the latest great to play receiver for the Nittany Lions.