Sean Clifford Is No Longer Penn State’s Starting Quarterback
Sean Clifford is no longer Penn State’s starting quarterback.
The sixth-year senior quarterback wrapped up his State College tenure Monday night with a signature win over Utah in the Rose Bowl. It was a collegiate career-defining win for a quarterback that ranks amongst the university’s elite in just about every statistical category imaginable. He’s first in passing yards, passing touchdowns, attempts, completions, completion percentage, and, perhaps most importantly, wins.
So why, then, is a statistically heralded quarterback for a program that is devoid of big-time productivity from the position, sans the last decade or so, such an anomaly?
One word: Inconsistency.
The oddity of Clifford’s inconsistent play puzzled me for the better part of six years. Decision-making was called into question. Deep ball accuracy was not always where it needed to be. Losses added up in the biggest moments. A 2-8 record against Ohio State and Michigan.
And then there were Rose Bowl esque drives throughout his career.
Late in the second quarter of Monday’s game, with the game very much still on the line, Clifford orchestrated one of the most consistent, well-executed drives of his six-year career. He was precise, determined, and calculated. He was poised in a pocket that was being held up without tackle Olu Fashanu. This second-quarter drive, while perhaps the best of the rainy evening in Southern California, was emblematic of the game that Clifford played. It was emblematic of many drives in Clifford’s tenure…
…Just not enough of them.
Clifford was a good college quarterback. Many Division 1 programs would consider themselves lucky to land a quarterback of the caliber of Clifford. For some, he would have been the best signal caller in school history. Often, he helped put Penn State in positions to succeed. But Penn State fans are searching for more than “good”. They’ve been searching for great, elite, Ohio State/Michigan status throughout the James Franklin era. And you can’t win at the highest level with “good”. In many big moments, Penn State won games in spite of Sean Clifford, not because of him.
I would be foolish, and perhaps even stubborn, to not acknowledge the career of Sean Clifford as a mostly positive one. Despite my vocal disdain for his play at times, the young man went out on top in tremendous fashion.
To put it bluntly: Sean Clifford is, was, and likely always will be, an enigma.