Penn State Shakes Up Offense In Win Over Villanova
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the Nittany Lions emerged victorious over the Villanova Wildcats 38-17 on Saturday, Sept. 25, the Blue and White changed around their offense.
Penn State held the Wildcats to a single field goal and no touchdowns going into halftime, but problems arose with a running game struggling to gain ground. Head coach James Franklin addressed the struggles early during a postgame press conference.
“I don’t know if we had the same edge,” Franklin said regarding the team’s mindset compared to previous weeks against Wisconsin, Ball State and Auburn.
Penn State’s primary running back target, Noah Cain, rushed for two yards before re-aggravating an injury from the previous week
The injury to Cain provided more touches for various players on the roster.
Running back John Lovett benefited the offense by putting up a season-high 45 rushing yards for 4.1 average yards per carry. The transfer from Baylor saw limited action against Auburn last Saturday with just nine yards for two attempts.
Coming into Penn State’s program for the 2021 season as a veteran collegiate athlete, Lovett understands how his experience can impact younger players at his position:
“I try to bring everyone along with me...they basically tag along,” Lovett said.
Sophomore running back Keyvone Lee rushed for 21 yards on seven attempts against the Wildcats.
Franklin acknowledged Lee’s reps and said Lee needs to learn to strike on opportunities when they occur.
Franklin emphasized the importance of getting reps for backup athletes and younger players to gain long-term experience, but Franklin voiced frustration over the performance results.
“When they go in, they have to live up to the standard, and we did not do that today,” Franklin said.
Penn State’s rushing yards did not eclipse 100 during the game when faced with a Villanova defense quick to collapse the pocket.
Franklin said that practice preparation throughout the week was not up to its typical caliber. He cited practice on Wednesday, Sept. 22 as a day that did not fare well for the Nittany Lions.
Quarterback Sean Clifford addressed Franklin’s comments about Wednesday’s practice falling short of the team’s standard:
“You can’t just let a whole day slip away,” Clifford said.
Clifford described the offense’s look during the first half as “stagnant” with a limited running game and passing game trying to make up the difference.
Clifford accumulated 401 passing yards with wide receivers Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith as his main targets throughout the game. Clifford became Penn State’s first quarterback to throw for 400 yards in Beaver Stadium.
Washington caught his first two touchdowns of the 2021 season and competed with Dotson to be the primary receiver. The sophomore from Sugar Land, Texas had 31 more yards than Dotson on two fewer catches.
The sophomore Lambert-Smith took advantage of his touches with a breakaway touchdown for the Nittany Lions early in the third quarter. With tough competition at the position, Lambert-Smith said that capitalizing on opportunities and maintaining a high focus in games or practice make an impact:
“Stay sharp in practice and it correlates to the game,” Lambert-Smith said.
Emma Holtz is a second-year majoring in public relations. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org