STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Sean Clifford passed for four touchdowns and a career-high 401 yards, leading No. 6 Penn State to a 38-17 victory over Villanova on Saturday.
Clifford completed 19 of 26 passes, finding Parker Washington for two TDs and Jahan Dotson and KeAndre Lambert-Smith for one apiece. Tyler Warren rushed for a touchdown and Jordan Stout kicked a field goal for the Nittany Lions (4-0), who led 17-3 at the break in their eighth straight win.
A week after outlasting Southeastern Conference foe No. 23 Auburn in a back-and-forth slugfest, Penn State showcased its speed against its in-state FCS opponent.
Clifford spied Dotson speeding through Villanova cornerback Christian Benford’s single coverage and dropped a 52-yard strike into Dotson’s hands for a 7-0 lead just three minutes in.
Early in the second, the Wildcats pressured Clifford and brought him down at midfield for their first of three sacks on the afternoon. But the fifth-year senior popped up and fired to Washington crossing over the middle on the next play. Washington sliced through Villanova’s secondary for a 52-yard score that made it 14-3.
Stout added a 29-yard field goal before halftime, but Penn State missed out on an opportunity for an even bigger lead.
Cornerback Johnny Dixon dropped what could have been a Pick-6 midway through the first half, and the Nittany Lions’ final two possessions were spoiled by a holding penalty and a sack.
Clifford continued to hook up with his receivers for big plays in the second half.
Lambert-Smith caught a quick pass and beat the Wildcats for an 82-yard score on the second play of the third quarter. Later in the third, Washington found a hole in coverage and Clifford found him for a 23-yard touchdown pass and 31-3 lead.
Warren added a 3-yard touchdown run off a direct snap in the fourth quarter.
Villanova quarterback Daniel Smith threw 57- and 17-yard touchdown passes to Rayjoun Pringle in the fourth.
Villanova tight end Tyler Will suffered a concussion and was taken to a hospital after he made a tackle on the second-half kickoff.
Will was down motionless for about five minutes before he was loaded onto a backboard and carted off, slightly moving his hands.
Villanova staff reported that Will was receiving treatment for a concussion, but was alert and had full movement in his extremities.
Villanova: The Wildcats should go into their bye week with their heads high. While their offense wasn’t able to hang with their more talented counterparts, the defense played tough and forced a Penn State offense fresh off its best game into multiple mistakes that kept the score respectable early.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions might have had a cleaner outing had they just taken what Villanova was giving them. Clifford had his first and second reads open often, but he seemed to be in go-for-broke mode much of the first half. That kind of play could cost Penn State against stiffer competition, especially if the running game doesn’t get going.
Villanova: Visits James Madison on Oct. 9.
Penn State: Hosts Indiana.