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Penn State gets superb performances from Dotson, Brown, in 31-14 win over Maryland

Dotson set a program record with 248 receiving yards on 11 receptions, and his TD catches included an 86-yard score early in the fourth quarter. Safety Ji'Ayir Brown added an 87-yard pick-6.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) throws the ball while being hurried by Maryland defensive lineman Lawtez Rogers (95) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in College Park, Md.
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) throws the ball while being hurried by Maryland defensive lineman Lawtez Rogers (95) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in College Park, Md.Read moreJulio Cortez / AP

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Saddled with a three-game losing streak entering Saturday’s game at Maryland, Penn State needed extraordinary performances to get out of the doldrums, and Jahan Dotson and Ji’Ayir Brown were more than happy to oblige.

Dotson, the outstanding senior wide receiver, set a program record with 242 receiving yards on 11 catches, three of them for touchdowns, to propel the 22nd-ranked Nittany Lions to a 31-14 victory over the Terrapins before a crowd of 46,924 at Maryland Stadium.

Dotson, who broke the record of 216 yards set by Deon Butler against Northwestern in 2006, caught touchdown passes of 38, 21 and 86 yards from Sean Clifford. Clifford completed 27 of 47 throws for 363 yards with no turnovers for the Lions (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten).

Brown, a senior safety, claimed both turnovers committed by Maryland (5-4, 2-4). In the third quarter, he pounced on a snap that quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa failed to control at the Penn State 12. He snuffed out another Terps drive in the fourth quarter when he intercepted Tagovailoa and returned it 87 yards for the clinching score with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining.

The Nittany Lions did not commit a turnover in the game on their way to becoming bowl eligible.

Dotson puts on a show

The Nittany Lions’ outstanding wide receiver came up with huge plays when his team needed them. After his team loss 11 yards on its first two possessions of the game, Dotson capped drive No. 3 by faking a route over the middle, heading straight downfield and catching a 38-yard pass from Clifford.

The senior’s second score was a 21-yard post pattern that Clifford zipped about shoulder high in the end zone in the third quarter.

But the most electrifying call, which had the sizeable Penn State crowd leaping to its feet, came early in the fourth quarter. After Clifford was sacked for an 8-yard loss back to his 14, he found Dotson open over the middle at the 35, and the fleet receiver ran away from the pack the rest of the way for an 86-yard score. The TD came 61 seconds after Maryland had tied the game with a TD pass and a two-point conversion.

Trying to run – really

The Penn State rushing attack failed to reach triple digits once again, picking up 95 yards in 32 carries. But the run did help them at key points of the game. Sophomore Keyvone Lee, who led the way with 50 yards in eight carries, was especially effective on his team’s initial drive of the second half when he sparked a 95-yard touchdown drive with five carries for 31 yards and two catches for 17.

Junior Noah Cain had some flashes of the player who excelled in his freshman year, carrying 10 for 35 yards and getting some tough yards when the Lions advanced into Maryland territory but couldn’t come up with points.

Defense solid again

The Nittany Lions’ defense had their hands full with Tagovailoa, who completed 41 of 57 passes for 371 yards and a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Corey Dyches. The Lions held the Terps to 48 rushing yards on 27 carries. Linebacker Brandon Smith led the way with nine tackles, including 2 ½ tackles for loss. Brown added nine tackles, and safety Jaquan Brisker and linebacker Ellis Brooks contributed eight apiece.

Tagovailoa had success finding receivers underneath, and his longest completion was only 20 yards. The defense held the Terps without a point after the game was tied at 14 just four seconds into the fourth quarter, with Brown posting the play of the game for his unit.

Dumb penalties

Brown and Brisker each received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play in which Brown recovered a fumbled snap by Tagovailoa at the Penn State 12. It was difficult to see what Brown did to earn the penalty, but Brisker ran about 20 yards in front of the Maryland bench, paralleling the sideline, and was flagged for taunting. The penalties moved the Nittany Lions back to the 3, and the visitors went three and out. Maryland regained possession at its 48 and drove 52 yards in 10 plays for the touchdown and two-point conversion that tied the game at 14.

In all, Penn State was penalized seven times for 49 yards.