State College, PA – Penn State played its first game in front of a Beaver Stadium crowd since 2019 and did so in spectacular fashion, defeating the Ball State Cardinals 44-13.
Penn State’s new offensive coordinator Mike Yurich struggled in the first half of last week’s game against Wisconsin, but that was not the case today.
In the opening series of the game, PSU Quarterback Sean Clifford led the offense down the field by completing his first four passes for 35 yards. Clifford also contributed in the run game by rushing three times for 13 yards. Junior running back Noah Cain would end up finding the end zone first on a 5-yard power play .
Ball State’s offense was not able to start with the same kind of success as their first two drives, only ended up netting a combined 8-yards with both drives resulting in punts.
The Lions’ offense was a completely different story as they racked up 154 yards on their first two drives. Clifford found the end zone on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to up the score 14-0 with just under six minutes left in the first.
With Penn State’s offense firing on all cylinders, the Cardinals’ offense began to take a more aggressive approach. Facing a 4th and 4 from the Nittany Lions 43-yard line, Ball State chose to go for it on 4th down. The decision paid off, Cardinals quarterback Drew Plitt was able to find running back Carson Steele for a 21-yard gain to put the offense on Penn State’s 22 yard line.
The drive would result in a 24-yard field goal to put the Cardinals on the board. The Ball State defense was able to have some success on the field when they held PSU to their first 3-and-out of the game with just over seven minutes left in the first half.
Clifford and the Lions offense were not done scoring in the first half. With just under three minutes left in the first half, Clifford found Penn State’s star Wide Receiver Jahan Dotson for a 25-yard touchdown. Dotson would finish the first half with 53 receiving yards.
The Cardinals’ offense made one final push to put points on the board before the break. Plitt was able to lead the offense 70 yards down field, but the drive stalled and had to settle for three points as time expired going into halftime.
PSU took a 24-6 lead into the break.
The Nittany Lions came out of the half picking up right where they left off. Running back Keyvon Lee got the half going with a pair of rushes that went for 11 and 12 yards respectively. The drive stalled out on the Cardinals’ 35-yard line, and PSU walked away with no points after kicker Jordan Stout missed a 45-yard field goal from the left hash.
With the ball back in their possession, Ball State continued to struggle as they were only able to gain a total of 2 yards on the drive. The drive resulted in Ball State’s 4th 3-and-out of the game.
The biggest highlight of the second half came with six minutes left in the 3rd. Plitt and the Ball State offense were stuck deep in their own territory when Penn State linebacker Jesse Luketa intercepted Plitt’s pass and took it 19 yards to paydirt. The pick marked the third interception of the season by the Nittany Lions defense.
The Lions increased their lead to 28 with a few minutes left in the 3rd quarter and fans were already heading for the exits.
Lions cornerback Daequan Hardy gave the PSU defense their 4th interception of the year when he picked off Plitt on a deep pass down the left side of the field with 30 seconds left in the 3rd.
Ball State eventually found the end zone for the first time with seven minutes left in the game. On 4th-and-1 from the Penn State 10-yard line, Steele bulldozed his way into the endzone with a ten yard rush up the middle. The score cut the lead to 24 for the Lions.
Clifford finished the day passing for a total of 230 yards and one touchdown. Clifford also rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Seven Penn State players rushed for a total of 240 yards on the day. Cain led the way with 69 rushing yards and a touchdown.
The differences between the two offenses on the field were night and day as the Nittany Lions was able to accumulate 493 total yards over the four quarters. The Cardinals on the other hand gained 295 total yards on the day.
PSU will have a big challenge on their hands next week as number 25 ranked Auburn will make the trip north to face the Nittany Lions.
They will kickoff on Saturday at 7:30PM on ABC.