Entering the game against the Michigan State Spartans, Penn State’s offense had been hit or miss.
That should be expected of a team with a first-year starter at quarterback, regardless of how many years they’ve been at the school or in the offensive system.
In general, the preseason consensus was that the Nittany Lions would go as far as Sean Clifford took them, and so far, that has proven correct.
When Clifford is dialed in, the offense can score points and control the ball at will.
When Clifford is off, making poor reads or missing passes, the offense sputters.
We’ve seen both Cliffords this year, and in truth we saw both Cliffords this past weekend.
But the good news is Clifford is on way more than he is off, at least lately.
Once again, the Lions raced out to a huge lead, and once again, the Lions then went conservative, choosing to let the defense do its job and get out of a hostile environment with a win and without any huge injuries.
On Saturday, Sean went 18-of-32 in the passing game for 189 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Those numbers maybe not appear all that gaudy, but after Penn State went up 28-0 with 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, Clifford was just 3-of-12 passing, for a total of 11 yards, and an interception.
When the offense needed to be good, Clifford went 15-of-20 for 178 yards and four touchdowns.
And for the first time in a while, I noticed the ball visibly being spread around more. I’d still like to see Justin Shorter targeted a bit more, as he had just one catch on the game, but all told eight different players recorded at least one reception. Pairing that with six players getting at least one rushing attempt, and it’s clear to see that the Lions will share the ball.
After watching Penn State try to force feed KJ Hamler for the entirety of the Michigan game (which worked, by the way, so make of it what you will), it was nice to see Clifford spread the love around.
The Lions are 8-0, and are currently #5 in the country. Take a breather, folks, as Penn State just went 3-0 through the single hardest stretch of its schedule to date. In a couple weeks, the Lions head to Minneapolis for a showdown with another undefeated Big Ten team in Minnesota, and I’m expecting another step forward from Clifford and the offense.
Because the last time the Lions had a bye week, they had just finished fighting for a 17-10 win over Pitt, took a week off, then nuked Maryland from orbit to the tune of 59-0.