State College, Pa. – Sean Clifford threw for 280 yards, four touchdowns and ran 11 times for 51 to lead the No. 15 Nittany Lions back from a halftime deficit to beat Buffalo 45-13 on Saturday night in front of 104,136 at Beaver Stadium.
“Sean’s able to make plays with his mind, he’s able to make plays with his arm and tonight he made plays with his feet as well,” coach James Franklin said.
The game didn’t start out well for the Lions, certainly not on the level of last week’s spanking against Idaho. Buffalo controlled the football in the first half, running 46 plays to 20 for PSU and outgaining their hosts 270 yards to 82. Disappointed fans expressed their feelings by booing the Lions as they headed into the break trailing, 10-7.
Coach Franklin called Reid’s interception the turning point in the game. Players along Penn State’s sideline went crazy when the fifth-year senior stepped in front of Antonio Nunn’s route, snatched Myers’ underthrown pass and galloped untouched down the right sideline.
It was the second straight game with an interception for Reid who just over two years ago was removed for a knee injury that cost him all the 2017 season.
“It was huge. For us, on offense, we feed off that energy. The crowd gets back into it.” Clifford said.
That play from Reid, who starred at St. Joseph’s Prep, was desperately needed. “It got us going,” linebacker Cam Brown said. “He got everybody rolling, got the guys hyped. We were already pretty upbeat. But after that, you can’t ask for much more.”
Quarterback Sean Clifford got the offense rolling with three touchdown drives the rest of the quarter, needing one, three and five plays to score. He hit tight end Pat Freiermuth with touchdown passes of 23 and 28 yards, and freshman Noah Cain plunged it in from the two to give Penn State’s a 35-13 lead heading into the fourth.
Clifford also threw scoring darts of 28 and 56 yards to Jahan Dotson. For the contest, he completed 16-of-22 passes for 279 yards, with 220 of them coming after the break.
“We weren’t executing in the first half,” Clifford said. “I take the blame for that. We pulled together and talked through some things and got it going in the second.”
Even though the Nittany Lions scored 38 points in the second half, they held the ball for less than nine minutes. Buffalo outgained the Lions in yards, 429-357, and nearly doubled them in number of plays (90-46). The Bulls had four drives of 10 plays or more and possessed the ball for at least 10 minutes in every quarter.
“We’ve got to be more consistent on offense, and on defense we’ve got to get off the field,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said. “I thought we were able to make some explosive plays, but I thought that the inconsistency stayed there. We just became more explosive in the second half.
PSU were inconsistent in the running game, picking up 78 yards after going for 331 yards last week against Idaho. Clifford was the team’s leading rusher with 51 yards on 11 carries and had a 58-yard run to help his average. Journey Brown was next with 28 yards on six carries.
“They played really hard, competed really well for the first 30 minutes,” Buffalo coach Lance Leipold said. “Came out in the second half and, obviously, a big switch in momentum.”
Jaret Patterson led Buffalo (1-1) with 75 yards on 23 carries while Myers finished 16 for 31 for 236 yards.