After continually highlighting Jahan Dotson in our weekly MVP posts, it seemed past due to share the wealth in what ended up as the 2020 season finale. But once again, Dotson terminated any and all doubt that he was the best player on the field.
It started from the very start this week. On Penn State’s first play from scrimmage, Dotson snatched a pass right at the markers, then with his lethal first step, reached past a quartet of Illini defenders until he was in the end zone 75 yards later. Just like that, Penn State was up 7-0 before anyone laid a finger on Dotson.
After a wild first quarter that ended at 21-21, Dotson was back deep to open the second stanza. Just a week after an 81-yard return touchdown to seal the deal against Michigan State, Dotson still had plenty of explosiveness left. With little room ahead of him, Dotson weaved his away around several Illini for a 50-yard punt return all the way to the 10-yard line, setting up first and goal. A couple plays later, Caziah Holmes crashed into the end zone to put Penn State up for good.
Later in the quarter, Penn State would get the ball back at its own 30 with just under four minutes and a 35-21 lead. It seemed like an ideal time to kill some clock, but Dotson was all too ready to strike again. On first down, Dotson caught a screen pass a couple yards shy of the line of scrimmage, and with the help of a couple fantastic blocks from Parker Washington and Juice Scruggs, was gone for a 70-yard touchdown. Yet again not a single Illini defender managed to get a finger on him.
While Illinois was able to keep things competitive in the early going, Dotson again proved to be the difference-maker to help the Nittany Lions get ahead and stay in front. He finished with six catches and a career-best 189 receiving yards and two touchdowns, as well as that momentum-shifting punt return to get Penn State up for good in the last game of 2020.
RBs Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee - Let’s hear it for the true freshmen duo, who took the reins of the backfield earlier than expected and used the opportunity to get better with each week. The pair combined for 162 rushing yards and three touchdowns as they prepare to be a potent force in 2021.
QB Sean Clifford- Things started out rough for Clifford, who saw another lost fumble turn into early points for the opponent. But he settled in nicely, completing 16-of-22 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, with another game with no interceptions. That makes three of four for Clifford, who has thrown just one interception during the four-game win streak.
LB Brandon Smith- Looking for something to be excited about in 2021? How about Brandon Smith becoming one of the best linebackers in the nation. Smith continued his season trajectory with one of his most disruptive games to date, leading the team with eight tackles, three TFLs and a fumble recovery.