STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Sean Clifford completed 21 of 29 passes for 230 yards, ran for a touchdown and threw for another to lead No. 11 Penn State over Ball State 44-13 on Saturday.
Running back Noah Cain added a rushing touchdown and wide receiver Jahan Dotson added another, linebacker Jesse Luketa returned an interception 16 yards for a touchdown and Jordan Stout kicked three field goals for the Nittany Lions (2-0).
Backup quarterback Ta-Quan Roberson added a 23-yard touchdown pass to Theo Johnson to cap Penn State’s sixth straight win dating to last season.
Penn State scored on four of five first-half possessions, led 24-6 at halftime and played suffocating defensen. It was the kind of start the Nittany Lions wanted, especially as they welcomed back nearly 106,000 fans to Beaver Stadium for the first time since 2019.
The diehards didn’t have to wait long for Penn State to score.
Cain scored on a 5-yard run to cap a 13-play opening drive. Clifford dove into the end zone from a yard out on Penn State’s next possession to make it 14-0 less than 10 minutes in.
After a pair of three-and-outs, the Cardinals got on the board on Jake Chanove’s 24-yard field goal. He added a 23-yarder as time expired in the first half.
Penn State’s defense all but shut the door in the second. The Nittany Lions held the Cardinals to just 142 yards and forced a pair of turnovers.
Luketa’s pick-six made it 31-6 with 5:56 left in the third.
The Cardinals ( 1-1) crossed midfield just twice in the second half and capitalized on the second late in the fourth quarter on Carson Steele’s 5-yard run.
Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt completed 25 of 39 passes for 176 yards with two interceptions. He was replaced by John Paddock in the fourth quarter.
The Nittany Lions have an opportunity to move into the Top 10 with No. 3 Ohio State’s loss to No. 12 Oregon and shaky performances from No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 8 Notre Dame, who squeaked out wins against unranked teams.
Ball State: The Cardinals had their eight-game winning streak snapped but played tough all day. They were actually able to move the ball on Penn State’s vaunted defense. Although they couldn’t cash in with touchdowns in the red zone, the Cardinals should be able to crack MAC defenses moving forward.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions have a lot of playmakers on offense, as evidenced by offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s willingness to spread the ball around. Ten different players got touches in the first half and Clifford played his best game in a long time. He was effective as a runner and was as accurate with the ball as he’s ever been.
Ball State: Visits Wyoming.
Penn State: Hosts No. 25 Auburn.