STATE COLLEGE — Buffalo, a near 30-point underdog entering Saturday’s game at Beaver Stadium, took a surprising lead at the half, sending the Nittany Lions into the locker room amid of chorus of boos.
Part of the Nittany Lions’ issue was that they couldn’t get the ball back.
Buffalo bridged the first two quarters with an impressive 19-play drive that consumed 8:34 of game clock. The Bulls moved the ball from their own 16 to Penn State’s 15 before settling for a 32-yard Alex McNulty field goal to make it 7-3.
The Bulls followed that up with an even more impressive 10-play, 96-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Matt Myers hit tight end Julien Bourassa with a 6-yard TD pass with 11 seconds left that gave Buffalo a 10-7 lead at the break.
Over the first two quarters, the Bulls racked up 21:28 in time of possession, running 46 plays to 20 for the Nittany Lions. Penn State had the ball for less than nine minutes.
Penn State didn’t need the ball much in the second half to outscore the Bulls 38-3 after the break. Penn State scored touchdowns on an interception return, a one-play drive, and a three-play drive to pull away.
True sophomore Jahan Dotson caught four passes for 109 yards. The second-year player from Nazareth hauled in his first two career TD passes as well.
Dotson and KJ Hamler were near each other as Sean Clifford scrambled from the pocket and lofted the ball toward the end zone. The ball appeared to go through Hamler’s hands and into Dotson’s as he fell down in the end zone for the 28-yard score.
Dotson then capped Penn State’s big second half with a 56-yard TD pass from Clifford. Clifford, in his second career start, finished 16-of-23 for 280 yards and 4 TDs.
Dotson caught 13 passes for 203 yards as a freshman last year, and caught a single pass in last week’s opener.
Transfer placekicker Jordan Stout kept his perfect run of touchbacks going through the first two games. He is now 21-of-21 this year.
Only one of Stout’s kicks even landed in the end zone. The other seven all went beyond the end line, and one even flew through the uprights.
At Virginia Tech last season, Stout had touchbacks on 60 of 71 kickoffs.
Penn State’s unbeaten 1994 Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship team was honored at halftime. Among those receiving the largest applause were quarterback Kerry Collins, running back Ki-Jana Carter and tight end Kyle Brady, all first-round selections in the NFL Draft.
The team went 12-0, and put Penn State in Pasadena for the first time since 1923. The squad had five All-Americans, all on offense: Collins, Carter, Brady, receiver Bobby Engram and guard Jeff Hartings.
Of the 44 players on Penn State’s two-deep roster, 28 — about 64 percent — are either sophomores or freshmen. Penn State’s starting lineup against Buffalo featured two freshmen — redshirts Justin Shorter and Rasheed Walker — and seven sophomores.
Senior John Reid’s interception return for a touchdown to give Penn State the lead early in the third quarter was his second interception in as many weeks.
It was his seventh career interception, and Penn State’s first interception return for a score since Amani Oruwariye’s 30-yard return against Kent State in 2016.