With Jahan Dotson as his wingman, Sean Clifford was able to outgun Taulia Tagovailoa and get Penn State to bowl eligibility Saturday.

Clifford hit Dotson for 3 touchdowns, the third one going 86 yards in the fourth quarter to break a tie and kill some major Maryland momentum. The Nittany Lions pulled away from there in a 31-14 victory that ended after dark in College Park, Md.

The victory ended a 3-game skid for Penn State (6-3, 3-3) and improved the Lions to 41-3-1 all-time against Maryland (5-4, 2-4).

Midway through the fourth quarter, Dotson already had 11 catches for a school-record 242 yards, and Penn State needed every last one of them to beat back Maryland’s challenge.

If Saturday is any indication, the flavor of the series is changing. Under Mike Locksley, now in his 3rd year leading the program, the Terps gave the Lions all they could handle a year after beating them decisively as major underdogs.

Entering this game as a double-digit underdog, Maryland stayed in 1-score range past the midway point of the final quarter, and Tagovailoa put serious pressure on Penn State’s highly-regarded pass defense before throwing a late pick-6.

Unlike in UM’s 35-19 victory last year at Beaver Stadium, Tagovailoa didn’t find may deep strikes, but he moved Maryland methodically with short and intermediate passes. He finished north of 340 passing yards while putting the ball in the air more than 50 times.

Clifford, though, kept answering despite a day that ran a bit hot-and-cold. And when he needed a huge play, he looked to Dotson. The standout receiver not only scored all his team’s TDs, he turned a crossing route into a 45-yard play to set up a field goal for its only other points prior to Ja’Ayir Brown’s pick-6. With Dotson’s help, Clifford racked up 363 passing yards on 27-of-47 passing.

Penn State scored the game’s final 17 points to pull away from a 14-14 tie.

Dotson capped a 14-play, 95-yard drive with a 21-yard catch to put Penn State up 14-6. Then his 86-yarder put the Lions up 21-14.

Penn State got a huge break, and its latest red zone stop, when Maryland center Spencer Anderson’s bad snap led to a Ji’Ayir Brown fumble recovery. The Lions gave away some of the gift, with Brown and Jaquan Brisker both being flagged for post-play unsportsmanlike conduct. Penn State wound up starting at their own 3-yard line.

Maryland returned to the red zone on their very next drive, converting a 4-and-3 with a shuffle pass to get inside the 20-yard line. This time, the Terps were not denied, taking advantage of a blown coverage on a 13-yard TD pass from Tagovailoa to Corey Dyches.

After a 2-point conversion, the game stood tied, 14-14, just 4 seconds into the fourth quarter.

The script played out as expected in the first half. Clifford and Tagovailoa traded blows, via throws, in an up-tempo battle. The outcome appeared to hinge on whether Penn State’s stout defense could make up for its shaky offensive line.

Both quarterbacks, particularly Clifford, went through hot and cold spells, and each team’s scoring drive took less than 2 minutes.

After a couple of 3-and-outs, Penn State went 75 yards in 4 plays to take 7-0 first-quarter lead. Clifford went 2-for-2 for 68 yards on the drive.

Otherwise, the Lions moved the ball a bit but never really threatened. Clifford finished the first 30 minutes 14-of-26 for 155 yards and was sacked twice. The run game produced 49 yards, which these days counts as progress for a team that produced just 33 all game in last week’s loss to Ohio State and 62 vs. Illinois in the previous week’s loss. Penn State was probably hoping for better against the┬ásecond-worst run defense in the B1G.

Tagovailoa finished the half 17-of-23 for 149 yards. He went 5-for-6 on Maryland’s TD drive late in the second quarter. The Terps went 86 yards on 8 plays, with Tagovailoa accounting for 71 yards through the air.

As the third quarter kicked off, only Joseph Petrino’s missed extra-point separated the teams.