Nittany Lions Long Scores the Difference in 38 – 17 Defeat of the Wildcats
September 25, 2021 –
The Villanova Wildcats stepped up in class meeting the #6 Penn State Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. The #7 Wildcats (FCS) would be at a speed disadvantage. And it showed as the Lions scored four touchdowns on long passes to win 38 – 17. Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford threw for a career-high 401 yards, and the team amassed 509 yards of total offense.
“I’m proud of our guys, the way they played, and they competed for four quarters,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante. “We got big played to death. There were probably six big plays.”
The start of the game set a tone that Nova did not want to be able to pull off the upset. On first play from scrimmage for Penn State Clifford hit wide receiver Jahan Dotson for a 52-yard for a touchdown after just over 2 minutes had passed. After the Wildcats answered with a 39-yard field goal from Cole Bunce, then the Nittany Lions used their 52-yard magic again as wide receiver Parker Washington took in a pass from Clifford and ran it into the endzone for a 14 – 3 lead. Washington caught 5 passes for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The score at halftime read 17 – 3 and could have been larger when PSU threatened as Clifford connected with Washington for a 67-yard gain setting the ball nine-yards away from the goal line. The Wildcats defense stiffened and forced a 29-yard field goal by Jordan Stout.
At the start of the third quarter the big play hurt Villanova. Scoring on just the second play of the stanza Clifford found wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith for an 83-yard touchdown catch and run. Near the end of the quarter Washington hauled in a 23-yard scoring toss from Clifford. The lesson learned for Villanova is speed kills.
Penn State got a rushing touchdown from Tyler Warren from 3-yards to move in front 38 – 3.
The Nittany Lions gained a total of 307 yards on plays of over 20 yards. When the game was played in the trenches, Villanova was able to give Penn State a tussle. The Lions were held to 80-yards rushing, an average of 2.4 yards per rush.
“I’m not surprised,” said Villanova linebacker Forrest Rhyne who had a game-high 11 tackles. “But what kind of player would I be if I thought they were going to rush for 200 yards on us. We think we are the number one rushing defense in the country. That’s how we played.”
But the Wildcats did not generate enough offense gaining 43 yards at halftime, and 280 for the game, most yardage coming in the fourth quarter.
“We were tested by probably one of the best defenses in the country on any level,” said quarterback Daniel Smith.
Nova found some footing on offense in the fourth quarter. Smith would connect on two touchdown passes to wide receiver Rayjoun Pringle from 57 and 17 yards for the final scores of the game. Pringle had 4 catches for 107 yards. Smith completed 20 of 34 passes for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was intercepted once.
“I’m proud of the way our offense stuck in there and put a couple on the board at the end,” Ferrante said.
Defensively Villanova defensive back Kshawn Schulters snagged his second career interception. Penn State defensive lineman Arnold Ebiketie, a transfer from Temple, recorded a sack against his former city rival.
Penn State improves to 4 – 0. Next week they have a conference game with Indiana who beat them on a late touchdown and two-point conversion last season.
The Wildcats (3 – 1) have a bye week before playing at James Madison University, the CAA preseason favorite. It may have been a loss, but Villanova looks at their performance in a positive way.
“We’re walking out of here with our heads held high,” said Ferrante. “We’ll learn a lot from this.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian