Blue White Illustrated

November 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 7 of 67

W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M 8 N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 1 OPENING SHOT PITCH AND CATCH When asked after Penn State's 24-0 victory over Indiana on Oct. 2 about the historically productive re- lationship between senior wide receiver Jahan Dotson and fifth-year senior quarterback Sean Clifford, coach James Franklin offered just about the most straightfor- ward explanation possible. "The first thing is, Jahan's good," Franklin said. "That helps." It does. Dotson might just be the best wide receiver in college football this year, having recently turned up atop Mel Kiper Jr.'s 2022 NFL Draft rankings at the position. Kiper listed him as the eighth-best overall prospect in the draft following a month-long highlight show in which Dotson opened his senior season by catching 35 passes for 446 yards and six touchdowns in the Nittany Lions' first five games. Those totals in- cluded a strong showing against the Hoosiers in which he totaled 84 yards and two scores on eight catches. The second of those touchdown catches, a 30-yarder late in the third quarter, followed a nifty bit of improvi- sation by Clifford, who got off to a hot start of his own this fall. Chased out of the pocket, the veteran quarter- back headed toward the right sideline and appeared to be running out of room before spotting Dotson uncovered. Clifford flicked a short pass, and Dotson did the rest, weaving through the Hoosiers' defense for a score to put the game out of reach. "Jahan really has got a good feel for how to get open in those situations, and the thing I love about him is that he's always working toward the sideline," Franklin said. "As a quarterback, you want to step up in the pocket. You want to go to a check-down right away, whether it's a running back or tight end over the middle of the field. And then, once you extend the play, your eyes need to go to the sideline. "I know everybody gets excited about this stuff you see where guys are throwing across their body, back over the middle. [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick] Mahomes does all this crazy stuff, but more times than not, those are going to get you in trouble. Sean is doing a really good job of stepping up in the pocket and looking for check-downs. … When you do that, you've got a chance to do some good things on offense." Clifford and Dotson have been doing good things for the past three seasons. The third-quarter touchdown against Indiana marked the 18th time that Clifford had thrown to Dotson for a score, breaking the school record for a pass-catch touchdown combo set by Todd Blackledge and Kenny Jackson from 1980-82. Dotson didn't know before the game that he and Clifford were closing in on a record, but he was pleased to find out afterward that he owned another piece of school history. "That's literally what I came here for, just to have fun with the guys and break records," he said. "It's all fun." PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL

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