It was a crock-potting of sorts in Happy Valley on Saturday, as Penn State never dominated the game, but the Nittany Lions were never truly challenged either as they coasted to a 38-17 victory over Villanova.
The story of the game — and more specifically, the offense — was two-fold:
- Passing game = good!!
- Running game = oh no!!
Sean Clifford continued his stellar start to the 2021 season, finishing the game 19-of-26 for 401 yards, four touchdowns, and just one interception which was squarely on KeAndre Lambert-Smith’s drop of a beautiful pass. For Penn State, it was the normal receiving duo of Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington who did most of the damage. Dotson found the end zone on Penn State’s first offensive play of the game, en route to a 7-reception, 117-yard day. Meanwhile, Washington was just as good, hauling in five receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns — and about one-inch shy of a third TD, too.
The running game, though: oh boy. Penn State struggled all day to generate any semblance of a running game, ending the day with just 80 rushing yards on 2.4 yards per carry. That is, in a word, ~terrible~, especially when you consider the Nittany Lions were going against an FCS defense. When you consider this performance with the struggles against Wisconsin, Ball State, and Auburn, it’s becoming abundantly clear that run blocking — especially on the interior — is a major issue.
Despite the 17 mark Villanova put up, the Penn State defense played quite well. The starters were only out there for the first three quarters, and during that time, only allowed 3 points. PJ Mustipher and Arnold Ebiketie led the defensive line with a sack a piece, while the secondary played their normal lockdown coverage.
Overall, was this Penn State’s best game? Not at all. But coming off that first three game stretch, it wasn’t too surprising that the Nittany Lions weren’t firing on cylinders. Still, enough question marks arose — hello, run blocking — that this game will likely leave a bad taste in most people’s mouths.