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Will Levis Provides Offensive Spark For Penn State In Comeback Effort

After plenty of discussion about getting him more involved in the offense throughout this past week, James Franklin handed the keys to Will Levis in Penn State’s fourth consecutive loss of the season Saturday.

Sean Clifford’s interception on Penn State’s first drive of the day and fumble that led to a touchdown was enough for him to get pulled for the younger Levis. The Cornhuskers had a 24-3 lead when the redshirt sophomore entered the game early in the second quarter.

Levis hardly played a flawless game, but he clearly provided a much-needed spark for a struggling Penn State offense. The Connecticut native rushed for 61 yards on the day and made multiple productive plays with his feet, and finished the afternoon with 214 yards through the air.

The quarterback’s biggest play of the afternoon came when he spun out of a tackle and hit Pat Freiermuth wide open for a 74-yard reception. That play set the Nittany Lions up for a Devyn Ford touchdown that brought them within a touchdown of the Cornhuskers.

“There’s no doubt about it, [Will] went in and gave us a spark,” Franklin said. “He made plays in the passing game. I thought he did a good job managing the game overall, and he made some good throws. We’re gonna have to build on that… He was fairly efficient, but we need to be a little bit more consistent in the details of things that we’re doing.”

While he finished with 214 yards passing, Levis hit on only 14 of his 31 attempts, plenty of those being crucial incompletions in the red zone. Penn State struggled to punch it in from close all day, including a game-ending Nebraska stop on fourth and goal in which Levis couldn’t get rid of it.

“We had a crossing concept coming from the field and then Jahan [Dotson] on a dig in the back of the end zone,” Levis said postgame. “That’s what we were thinking to get. I needed to buy time to kind of get that ball in the end zone, obviously it being fourth down…I made a last ditch effort to get the ball out, but there wasn’t much going for me there.”

While he didn’t make all the plays needed to win, Levis managed the game effectively with a couple of big throws and his battering ram style of running. He also didn’t commit any turnovers, something that’s plagued Penn State’s offense all season.

Levis also got help on the sideline from Clifford throughout Saturday’s contest. While it’s understandably frustrating to watch the game from the bench as the usual starting quarterback, Clifford took the move in stride.

“We know that regardless of who’s playing, we’re in the best interest of the team as a whole,” Levis said. “Whenever [Sean]’s in I’m gonna be giving him feedback, whatever I see out there, and vice versa. There’s no negative feelings towards each other at all, and it’s always for the good of the team. Really appreciate that about Cliff, and that relationship we have with each other.”

As they now sit as two leaders of the only winless team in the Big Ten, the pair of quarterbacks will likely be competing for a starting job this week leading up to the Iowa game. Franklin obviously had no insight on a decision so soon after Saturday’s contest, but he indicated that there will be a discussion.

“We’re not gonna name a starting quarterback right after a game before discussing it as a staff and before evaluating the tape,” Franklin said. “Where we were at in the game, again with the turnovers, what’s gone on this season so far, we had to make that change…Obviously that’ll be a discussion all week long, and I know we’ll talk about it later in the week.”

As that discussion rolls on at the halfway point of a brutal 2020 campaign thus far, Levis is nothing but confident in his ability to step in.

“I’m completely confident in my abilities, and have been these last couple seasons,” Levis said. “It’s not my choice, it’s not my call. But it doesn’t effect how I’m gonna be preparing…I’m gonna put my trust in the coaches and will always be willing to do what’s best for the team.”

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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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