By Harry Allison
Some Penn State fans called this the Revenge Bowl.
The players and coach James Franklin pooh-poohed the idea they were playing last night to make up for losing to Indiana 36-35 in last season’s controversial season opener.
But wide receiver Jahan Dotson and the Nits defense exacted a big bowl of revenge as No. 4-ranked Penn State pounded the Hoosiers 24-0 before a Stripe Out crowd of 109,951 at Beaver Stadium.
The Lions (5-0) stretched their winning streak to nine games and set up a top-five showdown against Iowa (5-0) next week in Iowa City.
Penn State handed Indiana its first shutout loss since Michigan drubbed the Hoosiers 58-0 on Oct. 14, 2000, a span of 246 games. The Lions posted their first shutout win since a 59-0 shellacking at Maryland in 2019.
“People have had this narrative of a revenge game,” cornerback Joey Porter Jr. said, “and we never really took it as that. We always took it as, they did what they did last year and this was our year. So we wanted to come out, get the win and execute, and that’s what we did.”
Penn State limited Indiana (2-3) to 201 total yards through the first 3 1/2 quarters and pressured Michael Penix into 10-of-22 passing for 118 yards. Penix injured his left arm in the third quarter and went to the locker room for the rest of the night.
A year ago, he directed a touchdown drive late in regulation and ran for the tying 2-point conversion against Penn State. In overtime, his controversial 2-point run gave the Hoosiers a 36-35 victory in the delayed season opener.
The Lions made sure there would not be another upset Saturday night and improved their record against Indiana to 23-2.
“Relentless,” cornerback Daequan Hardy said when asked how to describe Penn State’s defense. “That’s one of the words of the week for us. Relentless is to attack the ball, be tough, physical.”
Linebacker Brandon Smith had a sack and a blocked field goal to lead the defense, Porter and Tig Brown had interceptions and Arnold Ebiketie had a sack and a fourth-down stop inside the 5.
Penn State held Indiana to 69 rushing yards on 24 carries.
“Stingy, that’s the only way to describe it,” Porter said. “We’re a very stingy secondary, actually a very stingy defense on the whole. It’s just in the secondary, we’re aggressive, we like to tackle and we make plays on the ball.”
The offense struggled at times, but Sean Clifford completed 17-of-33 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Keyvone Lee, the most effective running back, rushed for 74 yards on eight carries.
Dotson finished with eight receptions for 82 yards and two touchdowns. He and Clifford became the most prolific touchdown duo in Penn State history, passing Todd Blackledge and Kenny Jackson with their 17th and 18th scoring hook-ups.
“I heard it over the PA (public address) system,” Clifford said. “The only record that matters is 1-0, but I’m not going to say it’s not cool.”
Jordan Stout capped the scoring with a 50-yard field goal with 8:06 to go.
Penn State mounted two lengthy drives in the first half to take a 14-0 lead.
On their second series, the Lions started from their 20 and converted a third down and a fourth down. On third-and-7 from the 23, Clifford scrambled for 13 yards. Moments later, he threw a pretty sideline pass to Parker Washington for 9 yards on fourth-and-7.
Three plays later, Clifford rolled to the left, kept his eyes on the end zone and found tight end Brenton Strange for a 10-yard touchdown.
“Sean’s very capable of making plays with his feet,” Dotson said. “We have to stay alive and make sure we keep our eyes on him when he’s scrambling. You know he’s going to make a play and make the right decision.”
Clifford made a mistake when he threw behind Washington, and it was intercepted by Raheem Layne. He returned it 23 yards to the Lions’ 13, putting the Hoosiers in position to tie it.
But Penn State’s defense made a stand. Ebiketie stuffed Stephen Carr for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the 4.
Sparked by the defense, the offense drove 96 yards to take a two-touchdown lead. Lee burst off the right side for 44 yards and then for 21 yards off the left side to the Indiana 9.
Two plays later, Clifford zipped a pass to the back of the end zone that Dotson leaped and grabbed behind Layne early in the second quarter.
“I think that was a big turning point in the game,” Clifford said. “Obviously moving the ball right down the field kind of takes the life out of a team.”
The defenses owned the rest of the quarter. Only Indiana was able to pick up two first downs on a possession, and that one ended with Porter intercepting Penix’s pass for Ty Fryfogle at the Penn State 13.
“We knew he rolls out and he looks to that side basically when number 3 (Fryfogle) is over there,” Porter said. “We just had to key in on 3 when he came out and did that route. When he cut, I broke on the ball.”
The Lions gained just 41 yards on their last four series of the half. That wasn’t a problem with the way their defense played.
“Our defense gives us a lot of confidence and we feed off that,” Clifford said. “We get it from them in practice, which pushes us to be better every single day. When they don’t allow any points, it’s pretty easy to win a football game.”