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Reid Interception Helps Spark Second-Half Rally for Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Trailing 10-7 early in the third quarter to heavy underdog Buffalo and having just watched running back Ricky Slade fumble the ball away inside the 30-yard line, things were looking ugly inside Beaver Stadium for No. 15 Penn State Saturday night.
(Photo of Penn State’s John Reid. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)
But senior cornerback John Reid stepped up and picked off Buffalo quarterback Matt Myers returning the interception 36 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, and the Nittany Lions never looked back on their way to a 45-13 win over the Bulls.
In a game that saw Buffalo (1-1) dominate time of possession in the first half before taking a 10-7 halftime lead on a 6-yard Myers to Julie Bourassa touchdown pass with just 14 seconds left in the half that ended a 10-play, 96-yard drive, Penn State, which left the field at halftime to some boos from the over 100,000 at Beaver Stadium came out in the second half and tired to make a statement driving into Buffalo territory only to see Slade fumble at the Buffalo 27-yard line.
Three plays in the Bulls ensuing drive, however, Reid picked off a pass on the sideline – his second interception in as many games – and raced to the end zone to switch the momentum.
The momentum continued to roll Penn State’s way when the defense forced a three-and-out on Buffalo’s next drive, and KJ Hamler returned the punt 22 yards which added to a 15-yard penalty on Buffalo gave Penn State the football at the Bulls 23-yard line.
Sean Clifford, who threw four touchdown passes in the game, then found Pat Freiermuth on the first play for a 23-yard touchdown pass to push the Nittany Lions lead to 21-10 just 3:06 into the half.
Buffalo kept fighting and answered with a 25-yard Alex McNulty field goal with 6:59 left in the third quarter, McNulty’s second field goal of the game, to cut the lead to 21-13.
But it took the Nittany Lions all of 47 seconds to answer back.
Clifford took off on a 58-yard run to the Buffalo 2-yard line, and Noah Cain covered the last two yards to push the lead to 28-13.
On Penn State’s next drive, the Nittany Lions were facing a fourth-and-2 from the Buffalo 28 when Clifford swung a pass to Freiermuth behind the line of scrimmage, and the big sophomore tight end eluded the Bulls defenders for a 28-yard touchdown to make it 35-13 at the end of the third quarter. Freiermuth caught eight passes for 99 yards.
Jake Pinegar added a 32-yard field goal, and Clifford hit Jahan Dotson in stride for a 56-yard touchdown pass late to set the final score.
It was the second time Dotson and Clifford hooked up, as the duo gave Penn State a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a 28-yard scoring pass.
Dotson went over 100 yards receiving on the night with four catches for 109.
Clifford, meanwhile, was 16 of 22 passing for 279 yards and the four scores while also leading a Penn State ground game that struggled to get going rushing for 51 yards on 11 carries. But the Nittany Lions ran for just 78 yards on 24 carries on the night.
After Penn State took the early lead, Buffalo completely dominated the rest of the first half by playing keep away from the Nittany Lions with a strong rushing attack paced by Jare Patterson (23 carries, 71 yards) and Kevin Marks (17 carries, 64 yards) and a vertical passing game from Myers, who was 16 of 31 for 245 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Antonio Nunn hurt Penn State deep catching five balls for 113 yards.
The Bulls held the way for 21:28 of the first half compared to 8:32 for Penn State and ran 48 plays for 246 yards compared to Penn State’s 20 for 67 yards. That including a 19-play, 69-yard drive that ended in McNulty’s first field goal.
But after halftime, Penn State outgained Buffalo 290 to 183, although Buffalo still ran 42 plays compared to the Nittany Lions 26 in the game and ended up winning the time of possession 42:32 to 17:28.
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