PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers celebrated Senior Day Saturday at SHI Stadium, but Penn State’s Ji’Ayir Brown had more fun celebrating his homecoming.
Brown, a senior safety from Trenton, N.J., recovered a fumble and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown as the 11th-ranked Nittany Lions trounced the Scarlet Knights 55-10.
Penn State (6-2 Big Ten, 9-2) scored two other touchdowns on special teams and defense, a 100-yard kickoff return by former Gov. Mifflin star Nick Singleton and a 14-yard scoop and score by linebacker Kobe King.
Brown’s touchdown gave the Lions a 35-10 early in the third quarter and came before more than 50 relatives and friends who made the 45-minute trip from home.
“Indescribable,” Brown said when asked what it meant to him. “They came out for me. They came out to see me put on a show and I did that for them.
“It’s a great feeling to have them go back with that memory of me from my last away game at Penn State. That’s going to stay with people for life.”
Rutgers (1-7 Big Ten, 4-7) took its first lead over Penn State in three years on Jude McAtammey’s 42-yard field goal in the first quarter. Singleton fielded the ensuing kickoff at the goal line, sprinted through a crease in the middle of the field and raced untouched to the end zone.
“I must admit that was a thing of beauty,” Lions coach James Franklin said. “We’ve invested so much on special teams, so I was really happy for Stacy (special teams coordinator Stacy Collins) and our players.
“We hadn’t had a whole lot of success, so that was big for us.”
Later in the first quarter, cornerback Marquis Wilson stripped the football from tight end Johnny Langan after a catch. King quickly collected it and scored to put Penn State ahead for good, 14-10, and start a game-ending 48-0 run.
King said it was his first touchdown since his senior year at Cass Tech in Michigan and his first score on defense since he had a pick-six in midget football.
“It felt fake to me,” King said. “I’m not going to lie. I was just focused on getting the ball and not kicking it out of bounds. I had to slow down and pick up the ball and score.”
Penn State stayed in contention for a New Year’s Six bowl berth with its third straight lopsided victory and gave head coach James Franklin the 100th win of his coaching career. He has a 100-51 record in 12 seasons, including three at Vanderbilt.
The Lions limited Rutgers to 167 total yards, the third straight opponent they’ve held to under 200 yards. They registered 15 tackles for loss and four sacks and forced three turnovers, including an interception by Johnny Dixon that set up a touchdown.
“This team is getting better every week,” Brown said. “I think it’s because we know who we are. We’re one of the greatest teams in this country. We’re finally starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
Linebacker Curtis Jacobs returned to action after leaving the win over Indiana two weeks ago with an undisclosed injury. He sacked quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and forced the fumble that Brown returned for the touchdown.
“He’s an experienced linebacker who has played a ton of football for us,” Franklin said about Jacobs. “He’s athletic. He’s a playmaker for us and he’s playing with more and more confidence. Having a veteran guy back like that is really good.”
On offense, quarterback Sean Clifford completed 17-of-26 passes for 176 yards and a 10-yard touchdown to Tyler Warren and ran 14 yards for another score.
Kaytron Allen carried 11 times for 117 yards and one touchdown, and Singleton, his classmate, ran nine times for 62 yards. They became the first freshman duo in Big Ten history to top 700 rushing yards in the same season.
“The ceiling is unlimited for those guys,” Clifford said. “They both have exceptional talent. They’re both getting better and better and better.”
Penn State finishes the regular season next Saturday against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. It will be the final home game for Brown, who enjoyed the trip back to his home state as much as anybody.
“When I saw nobody was chasing me, it was just like, ‘Wow,’ ” he said about his touchdown. “God has blessed me so much this year and throughout my life to be on this stage, to be able to make plays like that throughout the season. It was great to put on a show.”
Source: Berkshire mont