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James Franklin: Sean Clifford, Noah Cain Could’ve Played vs. Rutgers

Penn State was without two of its key offensive pieces against Rutgers as quarterback Sean Clifford and running back Noah Cain sat out due to injury Saturday. In his postgame press conference, head coach James Franklin explained that both players could’ve played, but his staff wanted to be cautious with their returns and keep their health for the bowl game in mind.

Clifford left the Ohio State game in the third quarter with an injury and was replaced by Will Levis who got the start Saturday. Cain has been limited during the last month, playing in only two games and tallying only seven carries.

“We felt like we could’ve played Noah, but he’s not 100% still,” Franklin said.
“We were worried if he played tonight and tweaked it tonight, he might not be 100% for the bowl game. With the depth we have at the running back position, it allowed us to do that.”

He gave a similar answer about Clifford, not going into specifics about the injury or exact treatment plans.

“Sean could’ve played this week, but it would’ve changed how we treated him,” Franklin said. “Once we decided to treat him a certain way, it made him unavailable to play…We felt like rather than each week, gradually losing mobility, this would give us the best chance to have him back for the bowl game.”

In the absence of Cain and Clifford, the Penn State offense struggled at times. However, their replacements Levis and Journey Brown led the way for the Nittany Lions with each player running for more than 100 yards. The duo on the ground accounted for 211 of Penn State’s 333 yards

Penn State won’t play again for at least another four weeks, so returns could be in the cards for both players. But if one thing’s for sure, given the way the team has handled their injuries this last month and injuries in general under Franklin, don’t expect to have a conclusive answer about their statuses until they’re on the field in the bowl game.

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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 All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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