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Sean Clifford: The Lost, Forgotten, And Downright Snubbed Heisman Finalist

For the second year in a row, a Penn State player was snubbed and not invited as a finalist to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York. Last year, it was Saquon Barkley. This year, and perhaps more catastrophically, it was Nittany Lion darling Sean Clifford, who subjectively yet indisputably put together the most dominant season by a quarterback in the history of football.

Instead, the Heisman trust elected to invite Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins — all fine players in their own rights. However, none came close to playing at the level of efficiency as Clifford, the big red Heisman snub. We’ve been on his hype train this entire season, but it appears the efforts of fell a bit short.

To loosely quote Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann: “There’s a few things I don’t understand in life. I don’t understand why airlines overbook their flights when they know how many seats they have. I do not understand that. I don’t understand how Rocky III never got an Academy Award nomination. It’s a heck of a movie. It’s a fine film. And I can’t for the life of me understand how [Sean Clifford wasn’t named a Heisman finalist]. I don’t get it. I’m out.”

Let’s review Clifford’s resume and how it compares to the three quarterbacks who received invitations to New York. 

Clifford attempted only five passes this season, but he completed every single one for a total of 195 passing yards, more than Tagovailoa’s totals in four games this season. We’ve heard enough about Tagovailoa never playing in the fourth quarter. When are we going to start talking about Clifford never even playing in the first, second, or third quarters AND still putting up these gaudy numbers? That’s the type of information the government is conspiring to keep you from acknowledging.

Two of Clifford’s five passes went for touchdowns, including a 95-yard dime to Daniel George. Neither Tagovailoa, Murray, nor Haskins had a play longer than 86 yards this season. Amateurs.

His passer rating of 559.6 is more than double that of Tagovailoa (202.3), Murray (205.7), and Haskins (175.8).

We’re extrapolating at this point, but basic logic tells us we can safely assume that given a body of work comparable to those of the three finalists (350 attempts), Clifford would’ve easily thrown for 13,650 yards and 140 touchdowns, both regular season records. Those are video game numbers, folks. And they could’ve been real life.

As for Clifford’s Heisman moment, must we pick just one? You could say it was his first play ever when he nonchalantly tossed a 34-yard touchdown moments after stepping onto a college field for the first time. Or it could be the 95-yard touchdown that set a school record for longest play. Or it could be that one time everyone thought he had finally thrown an incomplete pass, just to realize that it was only because of a defensive penalty. On the next play, with the moxie of Matt McGloin/Trace McSorley, poise of Todd Blackledge, and soft touch of Kerry Collins, he tossed a 44-yard completion to put the ball on the one-yard line. 

Let’s also not forget how much Clifford meant to his team. The Nittany Lions were 3-0 and averaged 59 points per game when Clifford played. Without him? They were 6-3 and averaged a mere 26 points per game. Bama didn’t even need Tagovailoa to beat Georgia in the SEC Championship this weekend.

Make what disputes you wish about garbage time or a small sample size, but numbers don’t lie and Sean Clifford doesn’t throw incompletions. The Heisman trust also doesn’t believe in honoring the greatest player of all time fresh off the greatest season of all time.

But we at Onward State do. And if UCF can declare themselves national champions, then we reserve the right to pick our own Heisman winner. And it’s Sean Clifford. Every. Single Time.

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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected] All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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