5 takeaways from Penn State’s Week 4 win vs Villanova

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After starting off the 2020 season in abysmal fashion with a program-worst 0-5 start, Penn State has done nothing but win games since. Penn State’s 38-17 victory over Villanova on Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium was the eighth consecutive win for the Nittany Lions dating back to the midway point of the 2020 season.

Penn State head coach James Franklin can feel really good about his team jumping into Big Ten play for the remainder of the season knowing his offense has big-play potential but also has some things to improve on the rest of the way.

Here are five takeaways from Penn State’s latest victory.

Sean Clifford continues to impress

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford became just the second passer in program history to throw for 400 yards in a single game (401 yards, officially). Clifford’s third career four-touchdown performance also saw him make a move up on the school’s all-time career touchdown passing list. Clifford’s Week 4 performance saw him moving up a few all-time passing lists in Penn State history, and he’s clearly not done yet.

Clifford continues to impress with his poise and decision-making. He was intercepted for the second time this season, but neither has come on a poor decision. His first against Auburn was a deep pass that was disrupted by contact from an Auburn defender as he released the ball in Week 3. His second, this time against Villanova was on a pass that was right to his receiver but bobbled. It certainly wasn’t Clifford’s fault. If Penn State continues to get play like this from Clifford, this offense will have more big plays on the way.

Parker Washington has cemented his status

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

We sort of already knew Parker Washignton was likely to be the team’s second-best receiver this season. Washington was the team’s second-leading receiver last season behind Jahan Dotson, and it is looking like we are well on our way to seeing the same result this season. But on Saturday, it was the Parker Washignton show with a game-high 148 receiving yards on five receptions. Washignton also scored two touchdowns.


WATCH: Sean Clifford tosses fourth TD of game vs. Villanova

WATCH: Parker Washington turns on the jets to extend Penn State's lead on Villanova

Next: Where the heck is the running game?

Where the heck is the running game?

AP Photo/Barry Reeger

Penn State’s running game concerns continued against the Villanova defense. Although Villanova is an FCS opponent, the Wildcats are one of the better FCS programs against the run. even with that thought in mind, it was concerning to see Penn State unable to create space for the running game to get moving.

James Franklin noted starting running back Noah Cain was a bit banged up after last weekend’s game against Auburn, which accounted for Cain getting just one rushing attempt for two yards (something we’ll have to monitor going into next week’s game against Indiana for sure). But the entire running game was lacking all game long.

John Lovett had a better second-half showing with 45 rushing yards on 11 carriers in the game, making him Penn State’s leading rusher. Keyvone Lee managed just 21 yards on seven attempts and Penn Stater rushed for 80 yards as a team.


Inside the box score: Key stats from Penn State's win over Villanova

The defense comes out strong once again

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State’s defense didn’t figure to have a very stressful day against an FCS opponent, but they still rose to the occasion time and time again from the start of the game. Villanova ended the game with 280 yards of offense, and 169 of those yards came on Villanova’s last two possessions in the fourth quarter against Penn State’s backups.

Penn State forced Villanova to two three-and-outs to start the game and allowed just a field goal through the first three quarters of the game before starter began coming out of the game for good.

PJ Mustipher and Arnold Ebkiketie each recorded a sack and Ji’Ayir Brown came up with an interception (and a second interception was wiped out by a Penn State penalty). It was a light day for Jaquan Brisker in the final stats, but he made his presence known too.

And real quick, speaking of defense, I do love Villanova’s version of the turnover chain.

Jordan Stout is a terrific punter

Say what you will about Jordan Stout’s place kicking (especially in week 1), but there is no doubt he is among the best punters in the country. Stout was called on to punt four times in the game, and all four punts were downed inside the Villanova 20-yard line.

Even against an FCS opponent, the ability to pin the opposing offense deep in their end is great to see from the special teams unit. Stout delivered on that mission.

Stout also continued to handle all of the placekicking responsibilities, as he has this season. He converted on all five extra-point attempts and was one of two on field goal tries, with the only miss coming on a 53-yard attempt.

Penn State will be home once again next week for a primetime matchup with the Indiana Hoosiers. It’s a big revenge game situation for Penn State after losing the season opener to the Hoosiers a season ago. A chance to take a 5-0 record on the road to Iowa is on the line, but Franklin and his team will live by the mission of simply being 1-0 next week after going 1-0 in Week 4.

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