STATE COLLEGE — Will Levis put a hand on the football in just enough time to secure the errant snap from center. Levis pulled in the football, and shuffled to his left as his eyes scanned downfield.
He then heaved a pass to wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who did the rest.
Dotson unleashed a video game-like spin move on a Rutgers defender and raced to the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown that gave the Nittany Lions a 14-point lead on Rutgers, which stuck around for most of the contest.
Penn State defeated Rutgers 27-6 on Saturday at Beaver Stadium to conclude the regular season at 10-2 on an afternoon where the Nittany Lions honored the 16 members of their senior class.
“It was a play call for a two-high zone, which they were in on third-and-long, and I saw Pat (Freieremuth) go in front of me,” Dotson said. “The (defensive back) had to pick him or me, and I saw the middle wide open like the sea. I just caught it, tried to make a move and I got in the end zone.”
After carrying a 7-3 lead into halftime, Penn State used a three-play drive on its first series of the third quarter to start to pull away.
Levis, making the first start of his career, opened the drive with a 49-yard run. It took running back Journey Brown just two carries to reach the end zone. He scored on an 18-yard run at the 12:05 mark in the third quarter.
Brown finished with 104 yards and three touchdowns to record his fourth 100-yard game of the season. Penn State coach James Franklin praised Brown’s level of confidence over the last few games.
For Brown, the uptick in production is a byproduct of feeling more comfortable in his role.
“I feel like I got my feet wet,” said Brown. “I put my feet in, and got really comfortable in the water.”
Penn State was without three starters: quarterback Sean Clifford, cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos. Clifford and Gross-Matos sustained injuries against Ohio State, while Castro-Fields has dealt with nagging ailments.
“We had a lot of people on the field that hadn’t been on the field for bumps and bruises and things like that,” Franklin said. “(Jayson) Oweh got his first start. (Keaton) Ellis got his first start and Levis got his first start. ... All those things are really valuable. We’ll grow from that, we’ll learn from that.”
The Scarlet Knights outgained the Nittany Lions 383 to 333 and were balanced in their production on offense (184 yards rushing and 199 yards passing).
Rutgers led 3-0 for most of the first quarter before Brown tallied his first touchdown of the game via a 2-yard run with six seconds left to play in the opening period.
Rutgers running back Isaih Pacheco tallied 102 yards rushing on 18 carries, and quarterback Johnny Langan was 12-of-24 passing for 164 yards. Langan also recorded 18 carries for 76 yards.
“We just need to come out a little bit faster,” Penn State offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez said. “At the end of the day, it’s my senior (day) game, and we won. To be honest, I’m just happy.”
Levis posted a game-high 139 yards rushing on 17 carries. He finished 8-of-14 passing for 81 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Dotson led the Nittany Lions with 44 yards receiving.
Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons finished with 10 tackles to record his sixth double-digit tackling effort of the season.
Penn State will now wait to see where it’s headed for its bowl destination.
“I think we’ve done everything in our control,” Penn State safety Garrett Taylor said. “Putting 10 wins on the board in the Big Ten, with a conference that’s strong as it is, and I think that speaks for itself. Even with our losses, I think we’ve showed a lot of fight, a lot of grit and a lot of determination.”