Penn State Defeats Rutgers, Wins Second Straight

Story posted December 5, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Andrew Field

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — On a day where the weather was a factor, Penn State defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday 23-7 for its second win in as many weeks and the 900th win in program history.

“This program’s not a losing program, it’s just not who we are,” Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford said during his press conference when talking about changing the narrative of the season.

“We just keep making strides,” Clifford said. “We haven’t given up.”

After starting 0-5, two wins in a row for the Nittany Lions have created a winning streak late in the 2020 season.

On the day, Clifford was 15 of 22 for just 133 yards passing as well as 21 yards rushing. He had a touchdown pass but also threw an interception in the second half.

When talking about his play in weeks past, Clifford didn’t hold back in his self-evaluation.

“I was forcing throws, trying to get too creative,” Clifford said. “There’s just plays that were careless.”

He mentioned not being greedy and taking what the defense gives him, and even though the passing game wasn’t the focus on Saturday, Clifford made most of the throws he needed to make.

One of those throws was to Parker Washington, who was held to just that one catch after last week’s career-high performance in both catches and yards.

This week, his 29-yarder on a vertical route over the middle for the first touchdown of the game was important. The Nittany Lions started quickly again and got out to another first-half lead.

At one point, Penn State was up 20-0 over Rutgers. It was the largest lead the Nittany Lions held over an opponent all season.

For a little series history between these two programs: Penn State had won the last 13 matchups against Rutgers dating back to 1988, and in the most recent six games against each other, the Scarlet Knights had scored a total of 29 points.

That trend would continue on Saturday, as Rutgers was held to just 205 total yards (122 passing and 83 rushing), was just 3 of 15 on third down, and was just 1 of 4 on fourth down.

The Nittany Lions lost the turnover battle again (2-1), the sixth time out of the seven games played. However, they were able to hold on because of the performance by the defense.

Linebackers Jesse Luketa, Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith were able to get home multiple times for tackles for loss, and the pressure up front by Antonio Shelton, Shaka Toney, Jayson Oweh and company made Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral uneasy throwing the ball all game long.

Penn State controlled time of possession too, as the offense had the ball for over 36 minutes of the game. It also won the penalty battle, as there were just two penalties, costing the team 20 total yards, much to the appreciation of head coach James Franklin.

“We’ve gone back to being one of the more disciplined teams in the country,” Franklin said.

Franklin alluded to the execution in the trenches on both sides as another reason for the team’s success.

Offensively, Phil Trautwein’s unit was able to create push and gaps for Keyvone Lee, Devyn Ford, Will Levis and Clifford to run.

Matt Millen was on the broadcast again this week, this time for FS1, and he inserted his thoughts when talking about Penn State’s offensive play up front.

“You can drive a truck through that thing,” Millen said when talking about the running lanes created by the offensive line.

Penn State had five different rushers and carried the ball 57 times for 248 total yards.

Lee led the way again for the Nittany Lions with 17 carries for 95 yards. He was complemented by Ford and Levis, who each ran the ball for 65 yards.

Levis and Clifford combined for 25 carries on the day. Levis didn’t even throw a pass. Regardless, the Nittany Lions were able to find a way on offense to get the job done and hold on for victory.

Next Saturday, Penn State will take on Michigan State. The Nittany Lions will look to make it three wins in a row, as the battle for the Land Grant Trophy will go down in Happy Valley.

 

Andrew Field is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email aaf5329@psu.edu.