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Sean Clifford ‘Disappointed, Frustrated’ With Performance Against Maryland

Thanks to its ugliest loss of the 2020 season Saturday, Penn State football now sits at 0-3 for the first time since 2001.

It’s hard to find a place to start when considering the Nittany Lions’ struggles, but the offense had yet another inconsistent day. The group managed to play fairly solid second halves in its first two games of the season after slow starts, but it never got much of anything going Saturday.

Kirk Ciarrocca’s offense struggled as a whole, but the blame has to first fall on redshirt junior quarterback Sean Clifford.

“I’m pissed. That’s probably the only way I can describe it,” Clifford said. “We’re an 0-3 football team. I’ve never been on an 0-3 football team. I’ve never lost like this in my life. To say I’m disappointed and frustrated are both understatements.”

The second-year starter has yet to get in much of a rhythm this season and that came to a head against the Terps’ defense, which was allowing the second-most yards in the Big Ten entering Saturday. Clifford has thrown for a solid six touchdowns this year, but his most glaring stat is his six turnovers. Clifford threw two interceptions to the Terps and even lost a fumble that led to a touchdown.

In the signal-caller’s defense, however, Penn State’s offensive line has struggled to help him thus far. He’s been sacked 13 times this year, including a season-high seven against Maryland.

“We gotta be able to get the running game going and we gotta be able to consistently protect the quarterback,” James Franklin said. “There’s too many times where he’s under pressure and getting hit early in games. He’s been hit way too many times this season, he’s been sacked too many times, and he’s been under pressure too many times.

“Does that have an effect? Yeah, it does,” Franklin added.

Clifford’s lack of time in the pocket has been an apparent issue, but Franklin also acknowledged the fact that he missed on several open throws throughout Saturday’s game. He completed just 27 of his 57 attempts Maryland, which was good for a completion percentage of 47.4%.

The Cincinnati native understands that he was lacking touch against the Terps, as he overthrew several of his favorite targets, namely Pat Freiermuth, on multiple occasions.

“[The offensive line] is giving it everything they’ve got and I gotta trust them. I understand that,” Clifford said. “Somebody’s gonna miss a block, it’s gonna happen. But I can’t get gun-shy. If somebody misses a block and we gotta throw the ball away, it doesn’t mean on the next down that everyone’s not gonna do their job. We got a very talented offensive line and guys that love and trust me. I gotta trust them play in, play out.”

Part of Clifford’s struggles have also stemmed from Penn State’s lack of a run game. With Journey Brown and Noah Cain out, Devyn Ford has been forced to lead an extremely young group. The sophomore has clearly struggled in his new role, as he was Penn State’s leading rusher Saturday with just 36 yards and didn’t do a whole lot against Indiana and Ohio State.

Without an efficient rushing attack, opposing defenses have managed to focus on pass defense and tee off on Clifford. Even a mediocre group such as Maryland’s had a successful day getting to the quarterback. As Clifford has clearly had his struggles, the rest of the offense will need to step up alongside him moving forward.

“We weren’t sustaining blocks, we haven’t been able to break tackles consistently. It’s been similar for the first couple of weeks,” Franklin said. “We’re not able to put people in conflict with the RPO stuff because there’s not enough respect and concern for the running game right now.”

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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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