Penn State Beats Rutgers on Senior Day
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Completing eight passes for under 100 yards with a backup quarterback, the No. 10 Penn State (10-2, 7-2) battled adversity on and off the field to defeat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-10, 0-9) by a score of 27-6.
Redshirt sophomore running back Journey Brown totaled a career-high three rushing touchdowns, as well as topping the century mark in rushing yards for a team-leading fourth time this season. For Brown, overcoming personal tragedy proved more difficult than evading would-be tacklers.
“I knew I played for him today,” said Brown, whose cousin Fabela passed away earlier this week. “I get very emotional when I think about that kind of stuff. The family out here at Penn State, those guys always supported me. I never felt alone when he passed away.”
Honoring 16 players on Senior Day, emotions ran high all game long for much of the team. Turning in his greatest performance of the year under unfavorable circumstances, Brown answered the call as freshman sensation Noah Cain sat out with injury for the third time in four weeks.
Also sitting out was redshirt sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford, who exited last week’s game due to injury. Backup quarterback Will Levis, the redshirt freshman who nearly mounted a comeback against Ohio State, delivered the tenth most rushing yards in a single game by a Penn State quarterback in program history.
Allowing for Clifford to take his time to recover in anticipation of a potential New Year’s Six bowl game, head coach James Franklin appreciated the chance for Levis to get his first start in Big Ten play.
“Sean [Clifford] could’ve played this week, but it would’ve changed how we treated him,” said Franklin about sitting this year’s starting quarterback in favor of the healthier Levis. “We felt like rather than [Clifford] each week gradually losing mobility, this would give us the best chance to get him back out 100 percent for the bowl game.”
Levis found out after Tuesday’s practice that he’d be starting Saturday, giving him three full days of first team reps. Rather than air the ball out deep to vertical threats, save a 44-yard touchdown strike to sophomore Jahan Dotson, Levis bullied his way to 108 yards rushing - possibly the most of his entire football career.
“Kind of the first time I’ve really been part of an offensive game that relies on me to run like that,” said Levis. “To show myself that I can run, that is pretty cool.”
Though Clifford didn’t see the field Saturday at Beaver Stadium, Levis spoke highly of how important the incumbent was to his game preparation.
“He was still a very effective part of the process throughout the week of watching film and being at practice,” said Levis about the team captain. “He was a huge asset for me all week.”
A first half that included four completions for 21 yards and an interception demonstrated that Levis still has much to learn about being a starting quarterback in the Big Ten. Still, leading the Nittany Lions to 20 second half points after a tight first 30 minutes showed moxie.
The all-time series against Rutgers moves to 28-2 in favor of the Nittany Lions, including 13 Penn State victories in a row. In an era of Penn State dominance over the Big Ten newcomer, the Nittany Lions will hope their resume proves adequate and turn their attention from one game featuring red to another: a potential spot in the Rose Bowl.
Andrew Destin is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.