STATE UNIVERSITY – Penn State is coming off their biggest win of the season against Auburn in the Whiteout, and there’s another big prime-time game against Indiana looming next week. But in between, the No.6 Nittany Lions must overcome a courageous enemy of the state.
Penn State hosts Villanova on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium for an FBS-FCS meeting.
The match, which is the first between the two programs since 1951, should provide an opportunity for the bigger and deeper Nittany Lions (3-0) to dig deep into their roster for key reserves of precious time. But the Wildcats (3-0) are one of the best programs in the FCS, coming off a crazy 34-27 victory over Richmond a week ago.
It’s also a great day at Beaver Stadium:
PennLive will bring you updates throughout the game below from PennLive reporters Daniel Gallen and Dustin Hockensmith. Be sure to follow Daniel on Twitter at @danieljtgallen for full updates and analyzes, and also follow the rest of the Penn State PennLive team: Dave jones, Bob the folds and Joe hermitt.
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Fourth quarter, 1:58 p.m. | Penn State 38, Villanova 3
Penn State broke into their jumbo Wildcat roster with Tyler Warren taking a straight shot, and again, Warren found enough leeway to hit a short touchdown. He did it with power this time, digging a crease in Villanova’s defense for a 3-yard score.
Third trimester, 1:58 | Penn State 31, Villanova 3
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford had an impeccable block in front of him and stayed patient in the pocket to throw his fourth touchdown of the afternoon. Clifford threw a ball at Parker Washington in the middle of the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. The big games were on the Lions’ side again as they increased their lead to 31-3 at the end of the third quarter.
Third quarter, 2:14 p.m. | Penn State 24, Villanova 3
Penn State started the second half the same way as the first, this time on an 83-yard touchdown pass from Sean Clifford to KeAndre Lambert-Smith. Clifford’s first glance was blown away by the Villanova defense, so he folded up, ran and looked up to find a Lambert-Smith wide open on the straight sideline.
Lambert-Smith made the easy grab and turned to the field, cutting inside the field to find all the room he needed to make another big play for the Lions passing attack.
HALF TIME | Penn State 17, Villanova 3
Apart from a few big assists that led to the points, Villanova’s defense lived up to Penn State’s offense. The end of the first half was illustrative. The Nittany Lions got the ball at the Wildcats 44 with about 2 minutes left. After carrying running back Devyn Ford for three yards in the first play of the drive, quarterback Sean Clifford took a sack that dropped six yards. On the third try, Clifford held the ball and tripped as he tried to escape the pocket and gained a yard.
The 52-yard touchdowns to Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington were nice, but the Penn State offense was a bit rambling against a team with a clear disadvantage in size and speed. Clifford is averaging 16.1 yards per attempt, but the Lions’ running backs are averaging just 2.4 yards per carry.
Thankfully, the Penn State defense has mostly suppressed the Wildcats’ offense, and Villanova is averaging just 1.9 yards per game. The Nittany Lions are hoping to have younger players running this afternoon, but Penn State must step down for that to happen.
Second quarter, 8:26 am | Penn State 17, Villanova 3
The Nittany Lions offense didn’t miss any big plays this afternoon, but they struggled a bit when it came to the normal paces of the game. After a few ugly plays, Sean Clifford hit Parker Washington for a 67-yard gain – if Clifford had led Washington it probably would have been a touchdown – up to Villanova 9, but the offense stalled before Jordan Stout extended it. ‘lead to two touchdowns with a 29-yard field goal.
Second quarter, 2:07 pm | Penn State 14, Villanova 3
The Penn State offense has had a bit of a fight with Villanova in the trenches when it comes to moving the ball to the ground, but the Nittany Lions have found explosive plays in the air. Penn State took a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter when quarterback Sean Clifford hit wide receiver Parker Washington in the middle stride and Washington went the rest of the way for a 52-yard touchdown. It’s Clifford’s second touchdown of the day from 52 yards.
Earlier in practice, Clifford displayed a good conscience as he rolled right on third and 9th, started to rush and stopped to hit tight end Theo Johnson after Johnson’s defender has come to pursue Clifford. Johnson missed a few Wildcats defensemen for a 25-yard gain:
Johnson has put together some impressive highlights over the past few weeks.
First quarter, 1:21 | Penn State 7, Villanova 3
Penn State had the opportunity to move away from Villanova on both sides of the ball later in the first quarter, but the Nittany Lions were unable to take advantage of it. First, kicker Jordan Stout missed a 53-yard wide right field goal to keep the score 7-0. The Nittany Lions had had a good practice, but quarterback Sean Clifford missed a few open throws.
Villanova took the opportunity and made it to Penn State territory following a 17-yard pass from quarterback Daniel Smith to wide receiver Jaaron Hayek in the third and-11. The Nittany Lions were fortunate enough to leave the field when safety Ji’Ayir Brown caught a pass from Smith, but the interception was wiped out by a brutal passer punishment on defensive tackle Dvon Ellies.
As Villanova knocked on the red zone door, Penn State’s defense strengthened and came out of the field. Wildcats kicker Cole Bunce was good at 39 yards to reduce the Nittany Lions’ lead to 7-3.
First shift, 12:59 pm | Penn State 7, Villanova 0
Well, it didn’t take long. Penn State took a 7-0 lead over Villanova in his first offensive play when quarterback Sean Clifford hit wide receiver Jahan Dotson for a 52-yard touchdown. The Wildcats faced the Nittany Lions star one-on-one and he easily beat his depth. Clifford placed the ball perfectly and Penn State is in business.
Pre-match | Penn State 0, Villanova 0
Both teams are emerging from the emotional highs of a week ago. Penn State held off Auburn, 28-20, for a prime time signing victory, while Villanova wiped out a two touchdown deficit in the final five minutes of play to shock Richmond, 34-27.
Wildcats quarterback Daniel Smith has thrown for 598 yards and eight touchdowns with just two interceptions in three games this season, and half of those touchdown passes have covered at least 40 yards. So Villanova’s offense has the potential to make big plays if the Penn State defense offers chances.
The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, should be looking to get plenty of action from quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson, while it will be interesting to watch the depth of the wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line and linebacker get the chance to experience real playing action.
Follow State College updates all afternoon here.
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Covers by Daniel Gallen State of pennsylvania for PennLive. He can be contacted at [email protected]. You can follow it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Follow PennLive’s Penn State coverage on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.