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Will Levis Steps In For Sean Clifford With Confidence During Second Half

No. 8 Penn State football fell short 28-17 to No. 2 Ohio State at the Horseshoe Saturday afternoon. This is a fairly respectable score to come away with against a team like the Buckeyes, especially considering the fact that the Nittany Lions were down 14-0 at half and had produced just 64 yards of offense.

It didn’t look much better for Penn State at the outset of the second half, as the Buckeyes scored on their first possession thanks to a magnificent catch by KJ Hill and took a 21-0 lead. Next, Sean Clifford went down on the fourth play of the Nittany Lions’ ensuing drive, and things looked like they were about to turn from bad to worse.

Enter Will Levis.

The redshirt freshman out of Connecticut had only gotten snaps in garbage time and three carries against Indiana up until Saturday, when he was tasked with taking over for the Nittany Lion’s offense — not to mention down 21-0 at one of the toughest environments in the country.

Levis certainly hung tough and quickly showed that he was willing to do just about anything to help his team win — including a 10-yard rush on 3rd and 4 in which he bowled over several Ohio State defenders. That drive finished with an 18-yard rushing touchdown for Journey Brown, while Levis capped off the next possession with a one-yard rushing score of his own.

The young quarterback’s 34 yards on 19 carries were without a doubt key in the Nittany Lion’s 17-point scoring run that brought them within four of Ohio State in the third quarter. But perhaps equally impressive was his ability to remain calm when being handed the keys to Ricky Rahne’s offense at one of the most important points in the season.

“You never know what play it’s gonna be,” Levis said. “When Sean went down I knew it was my time to go. I threw a couple balls, knew I was ready to go. I was a little nervous the first couple of plays but that kinda just went away when I started to have fun, just going out there and doing my thing.”

While Levis did impress during that third quarter burst, he also threw threw the interception that helped the Buckeyes close the door on Penn State. He took full responsibility for the miscue during his post game press conference.

“Completely on me,” Levis said. “I thought I made the right read pulling through, and just didn’t see the whole picture and made an errant throw.”

Despite going down in the third quarter, Clifford was an active participant on the sideline for most of the second half. The redshirt sophomore could be seen walking up and down the sideline with James Franklin, as he helped to give advice to several offensive players, including Levis.

“[Sean] was being a leader like he always is,” Levis said. “He’s gone through situations like this the whole season, so he knew what my thought process was. It was nice to have him in my ear to kind of guide me through what feelings I was having and what I was seeing.”

While Franklin did say Clifford could’ve gone back in the game, he explained that he wasn’t healthy enough to play as his usual, mobile self, while Levis added a better run-aspect to the Nittany Lions’ offense. The young quarterback clearly had some issues in dealing with crowd noise and managing against a talented Ohio State defense, but all things considered, Levis had a solid day against the No. 2 team in the country.

Franklin was proud of Levis and the entire team for battling back the way they did after a tough start in enemy territory.

“We have a strong locker room with a bunch of really good guys. Everyone in there is totally invested and had a lot of confidence that we could come in here and win,” Franklin said. “Going down 21-0 to the No. 2 team in the country is not ideal, but we battled. You have to give Ohio State credit, they’re well-coached, they’re talented, but we got a pretty good team as well. We just didn’t play well enough today to win.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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