Highs and Lows of PSU’s lopsided win over Purdue
By NEIL RUDEL
For The Express
UNIVERSITY PARK — Following are the highlights and lowlights from Penn State’s 35-7 victory over Purdue on Saturday at Beaver Stadium:
Play of the game: Sean Clifford hit Jahan Dotson with a 72-yard touchdown pass with 5:20 left in the first quarter, upping the Nittany Lions’ lead to 21-0.
Offensive player of the game: Noah Cain — the third of four tailbacks the Lions used — rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries, an 8.8 per-carry average. He was not thrown for a loss.
Defensive player of the game: Lion defensive end Shaka Toney made three sacks — two in the first quarter and all three in the first half — among his four total tackles.
Most telling statistic(s): The Lions made 10 sacks and held Purdue to a minus 19 yards rushing on 28 attempts.
Most deceiving statistic: Penn State lost the turnover battle 3-1.
Hidden statistic: The Lions’ defense checked the Boilers to just 1-of-14 on third down.
Best run: Cain burst up the gut in the fourth quarter for 27 yards, dragging a Purdue defender for the last 10 yards, to set up his 2-yard touchdown run that extended PSU’s lead to 35-7.
Best pass: Clifford’s pretty 23-yard touchdown pass to KJ Hamler opened the scoring.
Worst pass: Clifford was intercepted by Simeon Smiley going deep on a post to Hamler in the second quarter.
Best catch: Nick Bowers dove and reeled in a 9-yard reception with his fingertips in the second quarter.
Catch it, will ya: Hamler fumbled a punt return late in the first quarter that he recovered. Purdue had several drops, but we’re staying local.
Hold it, won’t ya: Penn State backup quarterback Will Levis mishandled a shotgun snap in the last two minutes, and the Boilers recovered.
Best tackle: Jesse Luketa dumped Purdue punt returner Jackson Anthrop in the third quarter.
Best hit: Reserve PSU linebacker Charlie Katshir coaxed a fumble out of Purdue’s Doerue King in the fourth quarter.
Worst hit: Purdue cornerback Cam Allen was ejected for targeting on a high hit vs. Clifford, who was already falling down.
Best kick: Blake Gillikin uncorked a 51-yard punt in the third quarter.
Worst kick(s): Jordan Stout uncharacteristically booted a kickoff out of bounds, and Jake Pinegar missed a 35-yard field goal, both in the second quarter. Take your pick.
Worst penalty: On third-and-goal from the Purdue 8, Clifford was flushed from the pocket and threw out of the end zone. However, Purdue senior defensive end Kai Higgins hit the QB as he was falling out of bounds and was penalized for a personal foul. Two plays later, PSU turned the brain cramp/gift from a presumed field-goal attempt into a 7-yard touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth.
Best call: On third-and-2 from midfield, Clifford used play action, faking a handoff to Ricky Slade and finding tight end Nick Bowers alone for 48 yards to the Purdue 8 late in the first quarter.
Worst call: Up 28-7 in the second quarter at the Purdue 21 and the offensive line/Cain having put Purdue on its heels, the Lions tried a first-down flanker screen to Hamler that lost eight yards. It led to Pinegar’s missed field goal and stymied momentum.
Best effort: Lion safety Lamont Wade made a career-high 11 tackles, including a sack.
Unsung hero(es): Penn State’s defensive coaching staff.