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Sean Clifford, Penn State Excited For Offensive Growth As Big Ten Gauntlet Continues

No. 4 Penn State football has managed to win games in several different ways over the course of this young season.

James Franklin’s group has done it with dominating defensive performances, explosive plays through the air, and even some timely turnovers. In Saturday night’s domination of Indiana, Brent Pry’s defensive masterpiece was matched with several methodical, time-consuming drives from Sean Clifford and the rest of the Nittany Lions’ offense.

While some offensive flaws are still clear, the group showcased a fair amount of growth entering a massive test against No. 5 Iowa at Kinnick Stadium next weekend.

The group totaled 209 yards on ground on the night — a welcomed sight after last week’s ugly performance against Villanova. Meanwhile, two of Penn State’s three touchdown drives lasted more than five minutes. With an impressive array of Big Ten defenses still ahead of them, the Nittany Lions will likely be pleased if they’re able to wear out opposing groups on a more consistent basis.

“I think there’s times where we do some really good stuff. We have to do it consistently,” Franklin said about his offense postgame. “We throw the ball really well at times. We run the ball well at times. We gotta be more consistent in everything we do…But I think we’re close.”

In case you forgot Franklin’s mantra, 1-0 remains to be a beautiful thing. With 408 total yards on the night and three scores through the air, the offense certainly deserves to enjoy Saturday’s win. However, it’s no secret that the Hawkeyes are on the horizon.

“You guys know I want to enjoy this win for a few hours,” Franklin said. “But I think we all realize Iowa’s a really good football team. They always are. But they’re playing at a different level right now.”

With that test on the horizon, there weren’t many surprises as to who Penn State’s offensive stars were against the Hoosiers. Sean Clifford played the same way he has all season, as he was efficient and limited his mistakes. The redshirt senior quarterback had one ugly interception, but he finished his night with 178 yards through the air, three scores, and was second on the team with 58 rushing yards.

Two of Clifford’s touchdown passes went to his old friend Jahan Dotson. While it’s almost becoming commonplace at this point for the stud wideout, Dotson had another banner performance by hauling in eight catches worth 84 yards.

Outside of those standouts, however, Keyvone Lee showed Penn State fans a taste of what could become of the team’s run game. The sophomore standout had a solid night by totaling 74 yards on eight carries, which included an impressive 44-yard burst to set the Nittany Lions up in Indiana territory.

“[Keyvone] has been playing at a high level. We needed him to,” Clifford said postgame. “He runs the ball hard. He’s got twitchy abilities, but he also hits holes pretty well. It makes my life easier when we get the running game going.”

Lee was Penn State’s only truly consistent rusher on the night, as John Lovett and Noah Cain both struggled to get into much of a rhythm. The sophomore, who noted postgame that on a scale of 1-10, his confidence level is at a 50, is just another example of a developing piece in the early stages of Mike Yurcich’s offense at Penn State.

While defense has largely been the story of this season thus far, there’s no arguing that the offense has showed flashes of greatness up to this point. Now entering a contest with a defensive unit that just forced seven turnovers in a win over Maryland, Penn State will once again need to find ways to grow and put things together on the offensive end.

“[Iowa]’s playing great defense. You turn on the tape from yesterday, six years ago, twelve years ago. They do what they do, but they do it well,” Franklin said. “The fact that they’re always in zone coverage and they always have eyes on the quarterback — and they got these massive defensive line that are able to get pressure…They’re a good 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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