Not many people can say that he has been the starting quarterback and captain of a Big Ten football team for four years. Sean Clifford is one of the few who can boast of that feat.
The veteran signal caller started Saturday’s game against Indiana after there were many chat during the week about a possible quarterback change. With former five-star prospect Drew Allar waiting in the wings, coupled with James Franklin’s refusal to name a starting quarterback for the week, many thought a changing of the guard might be on the cards.
However, after his team’s 45-14 win over IndianaFranklin said there was never really a debate about who his initial signalman would be.
“I told him I had an argument with staff members,” Franklin said. “But nothing had changed from our perspective. Everyone still saw him the same way. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t too close to decision.”
“For us, it wasn’t a lot of dialogue.” he continued. “It was a discussion we had. And after that, we just went back to our normal operation.”
In what was a commanding win for the Nittany Lions, Clifford didn’t have to do much. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 229 yards and an interception while relying heavily on an effective running game that accounted for four touchdowns.
Clifford played into the third quarter and came out in Allar’s favor after his team took a commanding 31-7 lead. However, no one batted an eye when Clifford’s day ended. Like much of the season, the only thing Penn State fans cared about was watch allar play.
Nobody seemed to mind that Clifford took his career passing yards total to 9,884 yards, leaving him just 15 yards behind Trace McSorley for the show’s all-time record, a feat he’s sure to reach next week at home. against Maryland.
Allar is the shiny new toy: the iPhone 14, so to speak. Many see Clifford as just an Android. The veteran quarterback is aware of all the noise and criticism from the outside. It’s hard not to be.
Clifford never seems to let the noise get to him, at least publicly. At the end of the day, Clifford is human. I don’t think anyone would necessarily be surprised or blame him if jealousy starts to seep through. Despite the constant calls for Allar to replace him as the starter, the veteran’s constant praise for the true rookie is a sign of true leadership.
“I thought Drew made a lot of good plays today. He just keeps growing… Drew and his attitude towards everything is fantastic,” Clifford said after the game. “We are a tight-knit quarterback room. That makes it so easy to get into work, and that’s been the best part of all of this.”
Criticism of Clifford has become routine. It’s always “Drew could do this, Drew could do that”, while at the same time it’s “Clifford can’t do this, Clifford can’t do that”. However, the Cincinnati native has no hard feelings about it.
“I can’t get mad at people who are critical,” Clifford said. “And I won’t get mad at people who are critical. I am blessed to be in the position that I am. I’m living a dream that I’ve had for years and years and years. So for me, I don’t really pay attention to it because I’m the happiest guy.”
It’s almost as if Clifford is at peace at this point in his career. He is possibly the most scrutinized Penn State quarterback in history, whether or not he was justified. At times, he has certainly been justified. That comes with being the starting quarterback in a major college football program.
As cliche as it sounds, though, Clifford really is living his dream, which is something no one can take away from him. He took a moment after the game to look at the big picture, something that is rare on the James Franklin show that preaches the “1-0” mentality.
“If you take it [all the outside noise away]and look what i’m doing right now i’m living my dream of playing college football at the highest level for a team that i’ve captained for four years, for a community that has had my back and has been really, really good to me Clifford said.
Some fans will always resent Clifford for not living up to the expectations they had for him. For never beating Ohio State. For never winning a Big Ten championship. And for never taking the Nittany Lions to the college football playoff. Clifford shares that disappointment. Those are things he would have loved to do as well.
He has been at Penn State for six years. He has started 42 games and has had his fair share of ups and downs. However, in what is now the twilight of his Nittany Lion career, QB1 is grateful for the ride.
“It sucks to lose. That’s for sure,” Clifford said. “Don’t get me wrong, I would love to win every game. Obviously very competitive. But at the same time, I wake up every day, win or lose, a very happy person because not many people get to experience this. So take each day as a blessing for sure.”