Rapid Reaction: Jahan Dotson fuels Penn State's win over Illinois
It’s Champions Week. Why not get a little weird?
Penn State, boosted by a career-high 189 receiving yards from Jahan Dotson, coasted to a 56-21 win over a roster-depleted Illinois team to wrap up the season at 4-5 and await a potential bowl destination.
Dotson finished the game with 6 catches and 2 receiving touchdowns. He was also a force on special teams, returning a punt 50 yards. The junior wideout was recently named to the Third Team All-Big Ten offense despite leading the conference in receiving yards.
The game could not have started any farther from how most expected the game to unfold. In the first 5:10, there were a combined 15 offensive snaps, 2 turnovers, a 100-yard kickoff return, a 75-yard touchdown reception and a combined 28 points as the Nittany Lions and Illini were already tied 14-14 with almost an entire game remaining.
Illinois even took the lead just a few minutes later on a 38-yard pass from Isaiah Williams to Daniel Barker in which Barker broke several tackles, before the Penn State defense finally rounded into form and the offense continued its dominant day.
Following Illinois’ 3rd touchdown, its next 10 drives generated a total of just 64 yards, 9 punts and a fumble as Penn State rang up 4 straight drives that ended in a touchdown, including an impressive 15-play, 91-yard drive capped off with a 1-yard rush by Keyvone Lee, who received the bulk of Penn State’s running back work with Devyn Ford missing his 3rd game in the last 4 weeks.
Sean Clifford had one of the best game’s of his rollercoaster season, completing 13 of his first 15 pass attempts, before ultimately finishing the day 16-of-22 for 285 yards. It was his 3rd time in the last 4 games not throwing an interception, although he did fumble in the 1st quarter that led directly to an Illinois touchdown.
Clifford and Dotson were the beneficiaries of playing against an Illinois team that had just 18 scholarship defenders available. The team only dressed 51 scholarships in total, not to mention offensive coordinator Rod Smith was serving as the interim head coach following the firing of Lovie Smith. New hire Bret Bielema was in attendance.
Following 4 straight wins to finish the season on good terms, the television broadcast said Penn State players would meet in the locker room to discuss their postseason intentions while James Franklin meets with the media.