Penn State didn’t fulfill the kind of rout many anticipated as nearly a six-touchdown favorite Sunday afternoon against Rutgers. But the Nittany Lions brushed aside a surprising scare from the Scarlet Knights, scoring touchdowns on consecutive fourth-quarter possessions to push toward a 27-6 win.
Led by its rush attack, Penn State produced a pair of 100-yard runners. Journey Brown rumbled for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries, while quarterback Will Levis led all players with 108 yards on 17 carries, including sprints of 30 and 49 yards that respectively set up two of Brown’s scores.
Brown, a redshirt sophomore, reached the end zone on runs of 1, 2 and 18 yards. He has three 100-yard efforts in the last four contests, scoring seven touchdowns during that span.
Levis, starting in place of an injured Sean Clifford, completed a 44-yard touchdown toss to sophomore Jahan Dotson that extended the Nittany Lions’ lead from 13-6 to 20-6 with approximately 12 minutes left. Brown’s third touchdown run with slightly more than five minutes remaining gave Penn State a 21-point margin that lasted to the final horn.
Levis finished 8-of-14 passing with 81 yards, one touchdown and one interception. This was his first collegiate start.
Rutgers running back Isaih Pacheco gained 102 yards on 18 carries, while Scarlet Knights QB Johnny Langan completed 12 of 24 passes for 164 yards.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions were led by linebackers Micah Parsons (10 tackles, one sack) and Cam Brown (seven tackles, one sack). Penn State was shorthanded on that side of the ball, as starters Tariq Castro-Fields (cornerback) and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (defensive end) missed the matchup with undisclosed injuries and cornerback John Reid never re-entered upon exiting after an early collision.
Penn State reaches a double-digit win total for the third time in four seasons; the first such span for this program since 1993-96. The Nittany Lions will learn their postseason bowl destination and opponent Dec. 8.
Penn State 27, Rutgers 6 (Q4; 5:13)
Journey Brown scores third touchdown of the game, while surpassing 100 rushing yards for the third time in four games. The redshirt sophomore reaches the end zone via a one-yard run to push Penn State ahead by 21 points.
Brown has 103 yards and three scores on 16 carries. He and QB Will Levis (108 rushing yards) have powered the PSU offensive attack as runners, and Rutgers finds itself in a significant hole.
Penn State 20, Rutgers 6 (Q4; 12:16)
Penn State puts together a response after Rutgers narrowed things in Beaver Stadium. QB Will Levis recovers from a bad snap to gain possession of the football and find receiver Jahan Dotson for a 44-yard touchdown pass.
Dotson finished the play by outmaneuvering Rutgers defenders en route to the end zone for his fourth score of the season. The sophomore provides Penn State with a two-touchdown advantage and now the defense will aim to do its part as PSU seeks to avoid an upset alert.
Levis has completed 7 of 13 throws for 76 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He leads all players with 103 rushing yards.
Penn State 13, Rutgers 6 (Q4; 14:55)
The Scarlet Knights have made this a one-possession game five seconds into the fourth quarter. Rutgers kicker Justin Davidovicz converted his second field goal of the game, connecting on a 38-yard attempt.
Penn State entered this game as nearly a six-touchdown favorite but now finds itself in a conference fight with fewer than 15 minutes remaining.
End of 3rd quarter: Penn State 13, Rutgers 3
A pair of touchdown runs for Nittany Lions running back Journey Brown make the difference through three quarters of competition in Beaver Stadium. Brown scored from 18 yards out early in the second half to expand Penn State’s lead but this has been an underwhelming offensive effort.
QB Will Levis has completed 6 of 12 pass attempts for 32 yards, tossing an interception along the way. He leads all players with 109 rushing yards on 14 carries. Rutgers has rushed for 150 yards, headlined by 96 (on 17 carries) for Isaih Pacheco. The Scarlet Knights will attempt a field goal to begin the fourth quarter.
Penn State 13, Rutgers 3 (Q3; 12:05)
Another long-distance Will Levis run sets up another Journey Brown touchdown run. The QB raced 49 yards to fuel a three-play, 74-yard drive that required only 58 seconds. Brown punctuated the possession with an 18-yard rush, and he now has six scores in the last four games.
Jake Pinegar’s extra-point attempt was blocked. Levis is the fourth Penn State player to surpass 100 rushing yards in a game this season (112 yards on 12 carries), joining Brown, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHT: Levis leaps over defender
HALFTIME: Penn State 7, Rutgers 3
The Scarlet Knights are nearly doubling the Nittany Lions in total yards today (243-129), but Penn State takes a narrow lead into the locker room. Favored by nearly six touchdowns, PSU has produced on 21 passing yards with starting QB Sean Clifford sidelined and Will Levis handling those duties.
Levis leads the Nittany Lions with 63 rushing yards on 11 carries, including a 30-yard run that set up a two-yard touchdown for Journey Brown. Rutgers QB Johnny Langan has 160 total yards, while Rutgers running back Isaih Pacheco leads all players with 74 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Rutgers missed a 35-yard field goal with a few seconds remaining in the first half.
Recent halftime scores in Penn State vs Rutgers series show this struggle isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary when these two teams meet…
2016: PSU 9, Rutgers 0
2017: PSU 14, Rutgers 6
2018: PSU 13, Rutgers 0
2019: PSU 7, Rutgers 3
Penn State 7, Rutgers 3 (Q1; 0:06)
Penn State takes the lead with seconds remaining in the first quarter. Running back Journey Brown reached the end zone from two yards out, marking his fifth touchdown in the last four games.
A nine-play, 76-yard drive took 3 minutes, 20 second off the clock and featured a 30-yard run for Nittany Lions QB Will Levis, who leapt over a defender in the process and has 51 rushing yards through one quarter.
Rutgers 3, Penn State 0 (Q1; 3:32)
Rutgers takes the first advantage Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium. Scarlet Knights kicker Justin Davidovicz connected on a 29-yard field goal to complete a six-play, 51-yard drive.
Rutgers has forced a pair of punts on Penn State possessions thus far, limiting the Nittany Lions to 33 yards.
Will Levis will start at QB
Penn State quarterback Will Levis will log his first collegiate start Saturday afternoon against Rutgers. The redshirt freshman is set to fill in for Sean Clifford, who handled first-team duties through 11 previous matchups this season.
On Tuesday, Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin referred to Clifford’s status as “a game-time decision”. The redshirt sophomore was sidelined last Saturday during a 28-17 loss at Ohio State.
Clifford appeared to be dealing with a right leg injury during a third-quarter possession in Columbus after taking a collision while completing a pass to tight end Nick Bowers.
Penn State down two defensive starters
Due to undisclosed injuries, PSU will be without a pair of starting defenders against Rutgers. Juniors Tariq Castro-Fields (cornerback) and Yetur Gross-Matos (end) will not be in action, opening the door for freshman Keaton Ellis and redshirt freshman Jayson Oweh to fill first-team roles at their respective positions.
Nickname: Scarlet Knights
Campus Location: Piscataway, NJ
Head Coach: Nunzio Campanile (interim; 1-6)
2019 record: 2-9 (0-8 in Big Ten)
Last Game: vs Michigan State (27-0)
Leading Passer: Johnny Langan (676 yards, 4 TDs, 9 INTs, 50.4% completion)
Leading Receiver: Bo Melton (375 yards, 2 TD on 27 catches)
Leading Rusher: Isaih Pacheco (627 yards, 7 TDs on 151 carries)
Defensive Standout: LB Tyshon Fogg (96 tackles)
Points Per Game: 13.9 (129th in FBS)
Points Allowed Per Game: 37.5 (124th in FBS)
All-time series record: Penn State leads 27-2
Last time they met
No. 14 Penn State 20, Rutgers 7 (Nov. 17, 2018 in Piscataway)
Facing a 1-9 Scarlet Knights squad and favored by four touchdowns, the Nittany Lions struggled to put this one away. Penn State took a 13-0 lead into halftime, courtesy of a six-yard touchdown toss from Trace McSorley to tight end Pat Freiermuth and a pair of short field-goal conversions for kicker Jake Pinegar. That remained the margin into fourth-quarter action.
A second score for Freiermuth — via an 18-yard reception — established a 20-0 Nittany Lions lead with 13 minutes remaining. Rutgers avoided a shutout when running back Raheem Blackshear reached the end zone from two yards out. Penn State limited the Scarlet Knights to 46 passing yards and forced three turnovers. Linebacker Micah Parsons logged his first collegiate start, totaling seven tackles and the first full sack of his career.
Last time they met in Beaver Stadium
No. 14 Penn State 35, Rutgers 6 (Nov. 11, 2017)
Penn State rebounded from a pair of difficult road losses (at Ohio State and Michigan State) by returning home and handling business against Rutgers. It wasn’t a flashy performance for the Nittany Lions, who trailed 6-0 more than five minutes into the second quarter, but quarterback Trace McSorley was highly efficient, completing 16 of 21 pass attempts for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
McSorley became the program’s all-time leader in touchdown tosses by hitting Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton for scores, and he added another 44 yards and a touchdown as a runner. Though Saquon Barkley managed only 55 offensive yards, he scored two rushing touchdowns. Led by linebacker Jason Cabinda (11 tackles), the defense limited Rutgers to 200 total yards and 10 first downs.