Penn State Finishes Off Indiana With Gorgeous Nine-Minute, 18-Play Drive
Most Penn State football fans likely cringe when they consider the following situation: The Nittany Lions have the ball with a three-point lead and 10:45 left in the game, so they need to orchestrate a long touchdown drive to boost their chances of winning and keep the opponent from gaining momentum.
Fans have reason to feel this way, as James Franklin’s teams have had several infamous gaffes and offensive struggles while leading in the fourth quarter.
This was far from the case in Penn State’s victory over Indiana at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Sean Clifford and co. orchestrated an 18-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that lasted more than nine minutes and iced the contest. The young quarterback finished off the 75-yard march with a clutch one-yard rushing touchdown on 4th down.
The redshirt sophomore was incredibly proud of his team when discussing the final drive at his post game press conference.
“We always talk about ending the game on our terms — especially when it’s a four-minute drive,” Clifford said. “We do that a lot in camp and practice it throughout the week. That actually turned in to a nine-minute drive, so I’m just really proud of our guys, especially the offensive line, the [tight ends], and Journey [Brown] and Devyn [Ford] really punching it through.”
As for Brown, the redshirt sophomore led the Nittany Lions on the ground with 100 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. The young running back had eight carries on Penn State’s final drive for a total of 24 yards. He served as a consistent muncher of yards for Ricky Rahne’s offense when the unit needed him most.
Brown felt as confident as anyone when the coaching staff elected to go for the touchdown on 4th and goal instead of electing to cap off the long drive with a field goal.
“It’s more like a ‘let’s not let [the coaches] down’ sort of feeling,” Brown said. “They put their trust in us when they decided to go for it. Coach Rahne called a good play, and we just executed it.”
“We knew we were going to score,” Clifford added. “When we drive the ball 18 plays, if we don’t end with a touchdown I think our guys are going to be pretty angry at the coaching staff. Our offensive line was asking for the ball. As a quarterback, when your offensive line is asking to go for it on 4th and one, you know what you need to do.”
Outside of Clifford and Brown, there were several other players that made meaningful contributions on Penn State’s final drive — including backup quarterback Will Levis. The Connecticut kid picked up a huge first down on 4th and one that kept the Nittany Lions’ drive alive and helped set up the offense to score.
Franklin explained his decision to use Levis on multiple occasions at his post game press conference.
“It was something that we’ve kind of mixed in and we’ve been kind of doing throughout the year in practice,” Franklin said. “Sean [Clifford] has been a little bit nicked up so we’ve been working on it in practice in case we are in a situation where we need to play him and add some running game.”
Levis’ 6’3″, 229-pound frame was pivotal in converting on 4th and short, thus keeping the drive alive and helping the Nittany Lions to eat as much clock as possible.
Franklin was extremely proud of his offense overall, as that final drive left no doubt in how the game would finish. He felt that those final minutes were handled perfectly by his offense and the coaching staff as a whole.
“Just a bunch of good stuff going on. End of the game, obviously for our offense to go on an 18-play drive, I haven’t been around many of them,” Franklin said. “[We] burned timeouts, ate the clock up, finished it with a touchdown at the one-yard line that we decided to go for on fourth down after burning another 40 seconds.”
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