Penn State welcomed defending MAC champs Ball State to Beaver Stadium for Saturday’s home opener and walked out with a comfortable, controlled 44-13 victory.
The Nittany Lions won the toss and deferred, opting to kick it away to the Cardinals’ offense and that decision was immediately rewarded. Penn State’s defense forced an immediate three-and-out, giving the ball over to the offense at the 22-yard line after a solid punt from the visitors.
That’s when Sean Clifford and company went to work, surgically taking apart the Ball State defense with a 13-play mix of run and pass that took just 4:33 and resulted in a Noah Cain touchdown run to put PSU up 7-0.
After the obligatory Jordan Stout touchback, the defense forced another three-and-out and the offense went back to work. This time, the Nittany Lions’ drive accounted for 76 yards and took just 2:18, with Clifford finding the end zone on a quarterback sneak.
The Cards finally got something going late in the first quarter, but the Penn State defense held firm and just into the second, Ball State was forced to kick a 24-yard field goal to make it 14-3.
On the ensuing drive, Penn State responded as Jordan Stout hit a 45-yarder to push the lead back out to 17-3.
After both offenses sputtered a bit in the middle of the second, Penn State picked it back up late in the half, marching 64 yards in eight plays and 2:41 to go up 24-3 on a Jahan Dotson 25-yard tunnel screen for a touchdown.
The half ended on a bit of a sour note, however, as Ball State marched right down the field to add a field goal of their own, putting the score at 24-6 at halftime.
Out of the half, both Penn State drove to Cardinals’ 28 before the Nittany Lions’ drive stalled. Stout’s 45-yard attempt then missed wide left, handing the ball back to the Cards. After an exchange of punts by the two teams, it was Penn State’s defense that would extend the lead as Jesse Luketa came up with a leaping, one-hand interception that he return 16 yards to the house to make it 31-6.
From that point on, it was cruise control for the Nittany Lions. Stout added a pair of chip shots on either side of the end of the quarter to make it 37-6 in the early fourth. Ball State then got its first touchdown of the game on a 6-yard rush against the Penn State backups, but the Nittany Lions ended on a high note as Ta’Quon Roberson recorded his first-career touchdown pass to Theo Johnson, who caught his first touchdown, to bring the final score to 44-13.
In the end, the Nittany Lions did a good job of working out the kinks on offense while not showing too much ahead of next week’s White Out showdown with Auburn. They’ll return to the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium next Saturday night as both Penn State and the Tigers put 2-0 records on the line.