In a season that has been whacky in a number of ways, it was another weird day in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions came out victorious, winning 28-0 over Rutgers, but this one was anything but simple.
Sean Clifford, battling injuries and now the flu, tried to give it a go on Senior Day. But it was apparent from basically the opening snap that No. 14 wasn’t up to play. Clifford was pulled following his second series, after going 2-of-8 for just 23 yards and no scoring drives.
Unlike the Iowa game, this time the Nittany Lions went with true freshman Christian Veilleux — and folks, he took advantage of the moment. He finished the game 15-of-24 for 235 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also carried the ball 10 times for 36 yards, showing he’s more than just a statue that stands in the pocket.
Perhaps just as importantly though? He looked comfortable. He looked confident. It’s just one game, but some would say he that “it” factor that is so important for a quarterback to have. For those of us who had incoming five-star Drew Allar pencilled in as the starter next season, today showed that Veilleux isn’t giving up that job easily.
Despite the final score, it took a bit of time for Veilleux and the offense to get going. The first six drives for the Nittany Lions finished with Jordan Stout punts, but fortunately, Brent Pry’s defense played lights out, giving the offense some time to work out the kinks.
Veilleux’s first touchdown came just before halftime, when he found Jahan Dotson in the back of the end zone.
Who catches Christian Veilleux's first career @PennStateFball passing TD?— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 20, 2021
Jahan Dotson (@H55ZY), of course. pic.twitter.com/nL4oLTWx2I
Later in the second half, he connected with Parker Washington and fellow Canadian Malick Meiga to give the Nittany Lions a comfortable lead with just how dominant the defense was.
While Veilleux will rightfully get the accolades today, this win was just as much about the Penn State defense too. Rutgers only crossed the 50-yard line one time, as they were held to just 165 total yards on the day. Although the Scarlet Knights offense won’t be confused for Ohio State’s, this was just an absurd game from all levels of the defense as they were able to preserve the shutout.
Next week, Penn State will go on the road to Michigan State, hoping to upset the ranked Spartans en route to an 8-4 finish. Who will be taking the snaps for the Nittany Lions? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Veilleux showed today that this offense can still put up points even without Clifford.