Coming off a big win on the road in a top-20 matchup, No. 11 ranked Penn State came back home to open up Beaver Stadium against Ball State
The Nittany Lions wasted no time, getting off to a hot start and taking a 24-6 lead into the halftime locker room.
James Franklin’s group used that momentum to its advantage and kept its foot on the gas in the second half en route to a 44-13 win
Here’s how our staff graded Penn State’s season-opening performance in Madison.
Offense: A | Justin Morganstein
Unlike last week, the Penn State offense got off to a hot start and didn’t look back as it cruised past Ball State.
Sean Clifford was efficient all afternoon, throwing for 230 yards on 21-of-29 passing and once again managed not to turn the ball over.
Jahan Dotson led the way for the receivers, racking up 65 yards on five catched and found the end zone once again with a 25-yard score.
The Nittany Lion running game was also impressive, gaining over 200 yards and finding holes along the Cardinals defensive line consistently.
Overall it was an impressive showing from Mike Yurcich’s offense after an inconsistent debut in Madison the week prior.
Defense: A | Alexis Yoder
There wasn’t much the defense had to fix coming off a stellar performance at Wisconsin.
Coming into the home opener at Beaver Stadium, Brent Pry’s group picked up right where it left off, making two goal line stands leading to two Ball State field goals.
The only Cardinal touchdown allowed came in the fourth quarter with all of the Penn State starters on the bench.
Special teams: A | Max Ralph
After being carried by its punt team against Wisconsin, Penn State didn’t have to roll that unit out much against Ball State.
There wasn’t much to complain about in the game as a whole, but there’s a couple things to clean up still for special teams coordinator Joe Lorig.
On the few punts he had, Jordan Stout looked good and the coverage avoided penalties unlike last week.
Stout was “stout” on field goal attempts for most of the day, converting all but on attempt from 45 yards out. Obviously you’d like him to hit that one, but it’s a tough kick that didn’t have any impact on the outcome.
The biggest area of improvement would be on kick return, where Devyn Ford has shown some explosiveness. He had a couple of good returns, but he seemed to put Penn State in worse field position than necessary multiple times by taking kicks out of the end zone.
In such an impressive win, there’s really not much to say, but Penn State’s special teams had a much better all-around performance than it did in Wisconsin.
Coaching: A | Seth Engle
It’s challenging to point out one area Penn State didn’t perform well in over its 44-13 route of Ball State — with the exception of field goal consistency.
In Week 1, the college football world was introduced to the Nittany Lion’s ruthless 2021 defense, when they held No. 12 Wisconsin to only 10 points.
Against Ball State, Brent Pry’s unit saw no signs of slowing down — keeping the Cardinals in check despite playing defensive reserves for much of the second half.
After achieving its goal of three takeaways against the Badgers, the Nittany came close to doing so once again, racking up two interceptions — one of which resulted in a pick-6 from Jesse Luketa.
With starting linebacker Ellis Brooks ineligible for the first half of Saturday’s game, Luketa took his spot.
When Brooks returned, Luketa entered “hybrid mode” and moved to defensive end, where he turned a pass from Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt into a touchdown for the blue and white.
On the offensive end, Sean Clifford shined — converting 21 of 29 passing attempts for 230 yards and one passing touchdown, and most importantly, no turnovers for the second straight game.
What stood out more than the passing game was Mike Yurcich’s involvement in the ground game, which was all but absent in the Nittany Lions victory over Wisconsin.
In comparison to the 50 rushing yards against the Badgers the blue and white racked up 240 against the Cardinals — 66 of which came from Clifford, who also rushed for a touchdown.
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