STATE UNIVERSITY – Sean Clifford sailed smoothly into the pocket and started rolling to his right towards the line of scrimmage later in the third quarter on Saturday night. The Penn State quarterback needed four yards for a first down, and an Indiana defenseman stood between him and the scorer.
As Clifford approached the line of scrimmage, Indiana linebacker Aaron Casey stepped forward, leaving a void behind him. Nittany Lions wide receiver Jahan Dotson stepped into the empty space, so Clifford threw the ball to him, and Dotson was off for a 30-yard touchdown to give No.4 Penn State a three-touchdown lead that s’ proved insurmountable.
In that touchdown, Clifford and Dotson not only showed the chemistry that has been the backbone of Penn State’s offense this season, but they also made history. The score marked the 18th time that Clifford and Dotson have connected for a touchdown, which is the most number of quarterback receiver combinations in program history.
âI don’t really know all the records, I just play there, I just have fun,â Dotson said late Saturday night. âIt’s pretty cool to hear when you break some sort of record, certainly coming from a historic program like Penn State. This is literally what I came here for. Have fun, have fun with the guys, break records. Everything is fun.
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Dotson and Clifford broke the previous record of 17, set by former Lions quarterback Todd Blackledge and wide receiver Kenny Jackson in the early 1980s. Blackledge was at Beaver Stadium as an analyst for the national television show on ABC, and Dotson said the record was set when he was recording a TV interview.
“He was setting right there, and he told me I was at one or we were at one,” Dotson said. “And he said, ‘Do the job,’ and we did it.”
Dotson finished Penn State’s 24-0 win with eight catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Clifford threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns. For Dotson, the success continues. He was Penn State’s top offensive player in a lost 2020 season. Clifford, however, struggled, and there were questions as to whether he was the answer to the quarterback.
It is clear that the two players trust each other. Clifford’s first touchdown pass to Dotson, an 8-yard second quarterback in the end zone, was only thrown where Dotson could get it. And on the 30 yards in the third quarter, Dotson kept his eyes on the backfield on Clifford and went with him in order to give him a target and keep the game alive.
The two players are in sync this year. In five games, Dotson had 35 catches for 446 yards and six touchdowns.
âI think the first thing is Jahan is good. It helps, âcoach James Franklin said after the game. âThat helps. And then I think of the combination of Jahan’s talent and the time Sean and Jahan have spent together, whether on the training ground, whether watching a movie, whether in a meeting, and then they played a lot of games.â¦ Who helps. “
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Clifford highlighted their relationship on and off the pitch. Off the court, the quarterback and wide receiver are friends, which leads to success on the court. Dotson watched in freshman and sophomore when former Nittany Lions KJ Hamler and Clifford traveled to Holuba Hall late at night to pitch and work on the intricacies of the game.
When COVID-19 protocols were lifted enough for Dotson to do the same with Clifford, the duo began working overtime.
âIt’s like some people like to go out, have a beer or whatever you’re doing late at night,â Clifford said. âBut some people like to go throw. This is what I love to do. I like to throw. I like to watch tapes.
Dotson has been a real star in the first five games of the season. Clifford looks completely different from the quarterback he was a year ago. And Penn State will need both players to continue playing at their highest level if the team is to achieve the trajectory it is committed to through September and October.
The next challenge is at No.5 in Iowa next week.
âHe’s playing at a different level, and we need him,â Clifford said. âI need him, this team needs him. I’m super proud of him, and I know he’s not even happy, and neither am I. So we still have a lot of work to do. “
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Covers by Daniel Gallen State of pennsylvania for PennLive. He can be contacted at [email protected]. You can follow it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Follow PennLive’s Penn State coverage on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.