Penn State fans finally got what they’ve been waiting for on Saturday — another receiver besides KeAndre Lambert-Smith to strike fear in the defense.
The wide receiver room was again limited with starter and #2 receiver Trey Wallace out with an injury for the second time this season. While there have been a few faces shuffling in and out of the lineup, none have been able to put together a statement game and carve out a role in the offense. That seemed to change in College Park on Saturday, as Dante Cephas’ big day helped the Nittany Lions dismantle Maryland, 51-15.
It probably comes as little surprise that Cephas was eventually the one to make a statement. The Kent State transfer had just under 2,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns during the last two seasons with the Golden Flashes. Cephas became among the hottest names in the portal during the offseason as an explosive receiver who can stretch the field while also making tough catches in traffic over the middle. Every team has a need for a receiver in the mold of Cephas.
A late arrival in the summer probably limited Cephas as he worked to learn the offense and get on the same page with Drew Allar. During his first eight games as a Nittany Lion, Cephas had 11 catches for 146 receiving yards. He seemed to finally have his breakout game against Maryland, scoring his first, then second touchdown as a Nittany Lion, and finished with six catches for 53 yards and the two scores.
Cephas was able to get the Nittany Lions on the scoreboard first thanks to an incredble catch along the side of the end zone. After initially ruling an incomplete pass, replay showed that he was able to quickly corral the ball with one foot down. The catch put Penn State up 7-0 with 8:41 left in the first quarter, and the Nittany Lions never looked back.
The second score of the day for Cephas was similar. This time, Allar looked for Cephas in the back of the end zone. Once again, Cephas was able to snag the ball just in time with a foot in bounds before heading out the back of the end zone. The score put Penn State up 31-7 early in the fourth quarter, completely squashing any hopes of a Maryland comeback.
The impact of Cephas’ two scores went far beyond the scoreboard. It finally showed that Allar has another weapon he can fully trust. On both scores, Allar placed the ball where only Cephas could catch it and trusted him to make the play. That trust will only help Allar further unleash his abilities to place the ball on any spot on the field thanks to his big arm.
Cephas played a vital role with the offense all day. He had several key blocks that he maintained that led to big plays. He also had a clutch third down reception to set up a 1st and goal from the six, with Allar finding tight end Tyler Warren for a touchdown two plays later.
Cephas’ big day came just in time, giving Allar a trustworthy new weapon and Michigan’s defense something to worry about as the Nittany Lions and Wolverines prepare for battle on Saturday.