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Nittany Lions roll past the Cardinals

Commentary

UNIVERSITY PARK–Following are the highlights and lowlights from Penn State’s 44-13 victory over Ball State on Saturday at Beaver Stadium:

Play of the game: On second-and-10 from the Ball State 25, Sean Clifford hit Jahan Dotson with a flanker screen, and Dotson weaved his way for a touchdown that gave the Nittany Lions a 24-3 lead with 2:50 left in the first half. If the game wasn’t over before that, it was then.

Offensive player of the game: Sean Clifford completed 21-of-29 for 230 yards and a touchdown and rushed 11 times for 66 yards and another score.

Defensive player of the game: Penn State defensive end-linebacker Jesse Luketa made a nifty, one-handed interception that he returned 16 yards for a touchdown. He also made four tackles.

Most telling statistic: The Lion defense limited Ball State to 69 yards rushing on 26 attempts.

Most deceiving statistic: The Cardinals made 12 first passing downs.

Hidden statistic: Penn State had nine receivers catch passes in the first half.

Best run: Clifford raced 43 yards in the third quarter.

Best pass: Clifford feathered a 24-yarder up the right sideline to Keyvone Lee in the first quarter, setting up the Lions’ second touchdown.

Worst pass: Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt threw a flat pass directly to Luketa, whose Pick-6 bumped Penn State’s lead to 31-6 with 5:56 left in the third quarter.

Best catch: Parker Washington went up to make an 8-yard catch out of a high pass in the second quarter and danced for a first down, extending a PSU drive. He also made a shoestring reception 18-yard reception to close the third quarter.

Catch it, will ya: KeAndre Lambert-Smith dropped a second-quarter pass.

Hold it, won’t ya: Lee fumbled for the Lions but recovered it.

Best tackle: Penn State’s defense was in good position all day so plenty of options here. With the Nits up 7-0, Joey Porter Jr. made a one-on-one stop on Ball State tight end Jordan Williams on third down, forcing a punt and a change of possession (which didn’t happen enough in the opener.)

Best block: Lion guard Juice Scruggs hustled downfield to help escort Dotson’s TD.

Best hit: Brandon Smith blew up Carson Steele after a 1-yard gain in the second quarter.

Best kick: Ball State punter Nathan Snyder boomed a 56-yard punt in the third quarter.

Worst kick: Jordan Stout missed a 45-yard field goal in the third quarter, but he also made a 45-yarder.

Best call: How about Clifford’s quarterback sneak on second-and-short from the 1 — from under center, no less — for a touchdown that put the Lions up 14-0.

Worst call: Thought Ball State, down 24-3, should have gone for a touchdown on fourth-and-5 with four seconds left in the first half. Instead, it kicked a field goal.

Worst penalty: Smith was hit with a personal foul on a punt/touchback that gifted Ball State 15 yards and possession at 35 in the second quarter.

Best effort: Lee rushed eight times for 68 yards (8.8 per carry) in addition to his 24-yard reception.

Unsung hero: Devyn Ford rolled up 105 yards of total offense –32 rushing 67 in kick returns and a six-yard catch.

Touching moment: Penn State’s honorary captains were the family members of former Nittany Lion football player Patrick Dwyer, who perished in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

FRANKLIN SPECULATION BEGINS

It didn’t take long for James Franklin’s name to be mentioned as a candidate for the head coaching vacancy at Southern Cal.

Within minutes of USC’s sudden firing of Clay Helton on Monday, national media began speculating about successors.

Franklin was near or at the top of a list compiled by Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel that included Urban Meyer, in his first season with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck and Rutgers’ Greg Schiano.

Ironically, Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien — Franklin’s predecessor who coached the Nittany Lions in 2012-13 — is also being mentioned as a candidate at USC.

Franklin has a regularly scheduled press conference today.

In 2020, Franklin’s contract was extended through 2025 at a salary of $6 million per year.

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