Sean Clifford Has Made Strides This Season

Photo: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Clifford doesn’t go down easy.

He showed that in a literal sense late in the fourth quarter on a play in which it looked like he should have been sacked at least twice, maybe even tackled for a safety, on 4th-and-24. But the quarterback slipped the tackles, delivering to his receiver for the huge gain to keep the drive alive with the snow pelting down as it had been all afternoon long. 

Clifford marched his Nittany Lions all the way down the field with little time remaining, finding Parker Washington for a touchdown, with Penn State relying on an onside kick to have some hope in the final 43 seconds. The spark didn’t last long as the attempt was quickly smothered in a clean recovery by a Spartan. 

It wasn’t the outcome Clifford and company were after, but it was a perfect illustration of the strides the quarterback has made between this season and last season as he appears to be comfortable with a better sense of rhythm in this offense. He finished out this performance 23-of-34 passing for 313 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

With this, he’s completed 224-of-362 passes (61.9%) for 2,599 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions, also carrying the ball 79 times for 142 yards with two scores on the ground. There have been some accuracy and consistency issues at certain points, but there’s a lot to be happy about with his progression.

Clifford does have a certain amount of mobility and has at times been effective on the ground, though he wasn’t able to show it game in and game out, partially because of the injury issues he’s dealt with—and though it’s not always reflected in the numbers, as we saw in this game, Clifford has done a nice job with his legs of making something out of plays that look like they’re going nowhere fast at first.

It’s something he’s had to do throughout the season, as Penn State’s offensive line has not always been up to par, allowing four sacks on Clifford in the season finale and allowing 32 total sacks on the season.

Whether this is the last game of Clifford’s career with Penn State or simply his last regular-season contest of the 2021 season, it’s time that Clifford earns more respect for leaving everything he has on the field and giving his team the best possible chance for victory—even if that means putting himself in an unfavorable position.

After all, this is the play that brought on his injury problems in the Iowa game, the one where Penn State fans seemed to gain even more appreciation for him after they saw how dismal things could get in his absence. He still stood in and made the throw—because that’s what Clifford does. It’s in his nature.

Written By:

Crissy Froyd

Feature Writer

Crissy Froyd is a graduating senior at LSU, also serving as the managing editor of the LSU division of USA TODAY SMG. Crissy has specialized primarily in quarterback analysis and features for the better part of her career and covers the Tennessee Titans in addition to the LSU Tigers.