Sean Clifford Settles Into QB1 Role After A Few Early Hiccups In Drubbing Of Idaho
Penn State football quarterback Sean Clifford was as confident as anyone heading in to today’s match-up against Idaho that ended in a 79-7 Nittany Lion victory. The redshirt sophomore felt that way right until he took a look around Beaver Stadium, which was the moment those first-start jitters started to come in to play.
“I really thought that I wasn’t going to be [nervous] when I was getting off the bus,” Clifford said. “And then walking through the crowd and feeling that energy a little bit more I was like ‘alright this might be a little nerve-wracking’ going in to the first snap.”
Clifford had quite the day once he settled in. He completed 14 of his 23 pass attempts for 280 yards and two touchdowns along with 57 rushing yards. But he was the first to admit that his first two drives were far from what he normally expects from himself.
“Those first two drives were not up to my standards,” Clifford said. “I was nervous, to be honest with you, and I let that affect me. My feet were kind of all over the place, but after that second drive I got back to the basics.”
The Nittany Lions got the ball inside Idaho’s 40-yard line on their first two drives, but they were only able to come away with field goals due to a couple of uncharacteristically errant throws from the Cincinnati native. The young quarterback airmailed tight end Pat Freiermuth on what would’ve been a walk-in touchdown. He also mishandled a handoff and nearly turned the ball over to the Vandals before falling on it to recover the fumble.
Even after those mistakes, the Nittany Lions held a 6-0 lead, but wide receiver KJ Hamler knew he needed to settle his quarterback down, and he did just that. The pair have known each other since their early days of high school, so it didn’t take long for Hamler to realize just anxious Clifford was.
“At the beginning, I knew he was nervous,” Hamler said. “I just pulled him aside and told him to calm down and get all the jitters out, and he just went on a little rampage after that. I just think he needed to get in the groove of things first.”
Clifford’s “little rampage” included two touchdowns to his teammate that helped calm him down. The young quarterback found Hamler wide open while making a throw on the run to give the Nittany Lions a 27-0 lead in the second quarter.
Clifford decided that he wasn’t done, though, as he found his old friend once again in the right-hand corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown pass. This score gave the Nittany Lions a 41-0 lead late in the second quarter.
Aside from Clifford’s 280 passing yards, the quarterback also proved that the offseason talk about his running ability was plenty warranted. He finished with the second-most rushing yards on the team Saturday with 57 on just seven attempts.
It was clear that the redshirt sophomore’s confidence was climbing as he began to leave the pocket and run for first downs on several occasions. His ability to evade defenders and pick up extra yards was key for Penn State’s offense throughout the day, including his big rush for 25 yards that put the Nittany Lion’s on Idaho’s own 35 and set up a field goal just before halftime.
If James Franklin’s post-game thoughts were any indication, we think it’s safe to assume that Clifford will get a chance to try and do this starting quarterback thing again next Saturday.
“I thought he managed the game really well,” Franklin said. “He protected the football, was really good from a decision-making process, was able to run the ball a little bit, and as the game went on was accurate.”
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With barely six weeks until the first ball is kicked for the 2020 campaign, let’s see how the Nittany Lions might line up.
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