Sean Clifford may have finally found a home.
The gunslinger is on his third offensive coordinator in his three years as QB1 for the Penn State offense. His first year at the helm was filled with soaring highs that made him appear on the verge of greatness, mixed in with times when it was clear he was a first-year starter. He was asked to do the impossible in year two, learning a new offense over Zoom and take the field with a batch of receivers he just met. It showed in the results.
Year three is off to a much better start. Clifford found his poise in the second half of the Wisconsin game to deliver the plays needed to escape with a victory. He showed excellent command of the offense against Ball State in week two. He’s now followed that up with the best performance thus far of his Penn State career - in the brightest of spotlights against a tenacious defense.
Clifford put together a masterpiece to deliver the Nittany Lions second victory over a ranked opponent in the young season. He was relied upon more than usual as the Tigers front seven left little opportunity for the run game - and he had no problem delivering to the delight of the frenzied White Out crowd. Of his 32 pass attempts on the evening, only four would fall incomplete. It wasn’t just efficiency, but rather, Clifford himself making plays again and again. He regularly kept his cool in the pocket (in a stark improvement from a year ago) to extend plays and find the available receiver. He made the types of throws needed when facing a defense like Auburn, which is a promising sign when considering some of the defenses ahead on the schedule.
On top of the incredible 87.5 completion percentage, Clifford tossed for 280 yards and two touchdowns, including this absolute beautiful strike to Jahan Dotson to put the Nittany Lions on the board:
Clifford was in command of the Penn State offense from start to finish, delivering plays that kept a talented Auburn defense never quite certain of what was coming next. He should only become more comfortable in Mike Yurcich’s offense from here.
WR Jahan Dotson - I woke up this morning expecting to name Dotson as MVP before reconsidering, and you can certainly argue I made the wrong choice. Simply put, Dotson wore his Superman cape on Saturday night. He made several catches that seemed to defy physics, making it uncertain if any other receiver in college football is at his skill level. Clifford had an eye-popping stat line, but Dotson offered the heroics to make it happen.
The tight end room - The tight ends made a huge splash after a mostly quiet two weeks to start the season. Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren all had big nights, as the trio combined for 129 receiving yards and two total touchdowns. The possibilities seem endless for this group as they carve out their role in the still-evolving offense.
S Jaquan Brisker - Brisker once again led the pack of several fantastic defensive performances. He certainly doesn’t shy away from the big moment, seemingly popping up to make a play whenever the Nittany Lions needed him the most. He finished with six tackles, a TFL - as well as breaking up a pass over the middle of the field to clinch the victory.