It wasn’t easy at times, but Sean Clifford led the way as the Penn State offense rebounded from a poor first half to eventually roll to victory against Buffalo. Unlike week one, Clifford was spot on from the start, displaying the accuracy that’s had fans itching to see him in the starting role ever since Tommy Stevens decided the time was right to depart Happy Valley to join Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State.
Clifford completed 16 of his 22 pass attempts that also included an uncharacteristic drop by KJ Hamler that halted a first half drive. He tossed four touchdowns along the way, without an interception. It’s a very promising sign that Clifford has thrown seven touchdowns to zero interceptions in his first two games as a starter, avoiding the mental mistakes that seem inevitable of a first-year starting quarterback, regardless of competition.
Clifford also did something highly unexpected from those who assumed he’s simply a dropback passer- he also led the team in rushing by a wide margin. This was the result of a third quarter run where Clifford kept going, and going, and going until he was brought down just shy of the end zone after a 58-yard scamper. One play later, Noah Cain would finish the job with a two-yard touchdown set up by Clifford’s unbelievable effort.
Clifford may not be a regular part of the running game like his predecessor, NFL quarterback Trace McSorley. But he has shown that he can offer a very dangerous wrinkle to the offense. If he sees the real estate in front of him, he can make a defense pay with his legs as well.
Overall, it was a gritty and productive performance that showed plenty of promise for the Nittany Lions new signal caller.
TE Pat Freiermuth- My first instinct was to proclaim Freiermuth as the MVP, and I’m still not convinced he wasn’t the most important part of the victory. Freiermuth created a huge spark in the third quarter that allowed Penn State to pull away from Buffalo, who had outplayed the Nittany Lions throughout the first half. Freiermuth’s second touchdown, a 28-yard reception when he outran several members of the Bulls defense, was the type of play that not many at his position has the ability to make. The sophomore tight end has proven that he’s a legitimate candidate for All-American honors. He finished the night with a team-leading eight receptions for 99 yards and two scores.
WR Jahan Dotson- Dotson had his best game as a Nittany Lion by far, scoring his first career touchdown to get Penn State on the board, and then closing out the game with a 56-yard touchdown catch. Dotson averaged 27.3 yards per catch as he led the team with 109 receiving yards.
LB Cam Brown- Brown barely played in week one thanks to a first half suspension following a targeting penalty in the Citrus Bowl. He made the most of his first start of 2019 with a very active evening, finishing with 10 tackles, two TFLs, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
CBs John Reid and Tariq Castro-Fields- Reid did exactly what you’d hope for from your senior leaders- make a play when the team desperately needed a spark. His second interception of the season went for a 36-yard touchdown return, as he made a brilliant read on a ball before taking it to the house. Fields-Castro’s name was constantly called throughout the night, as he contributed eight tackles (six solo), a TFL, and two passes defended.