Even after loss to Michigan, Sean Clifford deserves your respect

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Penn State Sean Clifford is winding down with his time in Happy Valley unless he decides to take advantage of the opportunity for a sixth season in a Penn State uniform. Regardless of his future, one thing is perfectly clear when it comes to the legacy of Sean Clifford. Clifford is an absolute baller and he’s not going to throw in the towel on this team and this season.

A season that started with so much promise after the first month of the season is now scratching and clawing just to finish above .500 this season. Sean Clifford has taken more than enough hits than he should because Penn State’s offensive line has not materialized the way some had suspected it would this season. And the lack of a running game this season has put even more pressure on Clifford to make plays.

Since being knocked out of a road game at Iowa earlier in the season, Clifford has returned to take the vast majority of the offensive snaps. After a rough outing against Illinois, Clifford showed much improvement the following week in a road loss to Ohio State, and Clifford came up with some big connections with Jahan Dotson in a road win at Maryland last week. Against Michigan, Clifford had another bout of ups and downs.

Clifford completed 23 of 43 pass attempts for 205 yards with one clutch touchdown in the fourth quarter, paired with a two-point conversion for the tie midway through the fourth quarter. But Clifford and the Penn State offense had two red-zone trips in the first quarter net just three points and another drive in the fourth quarter starting inside the red zone (at the Michigan 16-yard line after the defense forced a Michigan fumble) lead to just three more points. At the time, the field goal was good for a 17-14 lead, but the failed red-zone production by the offense allowed Michigan to hang around long enough for a 47-yard pass from quarterback Cade McNamara to tight end Erick All go 47 yards for a soul-crushing go-ahead touchdown, which would prove to be the eventual game-winning score.

How much blame you put on Clifford for the loss is entirely up to you. Clifford at times seemed to hold on to the football too long at times as the offensive line crumbled in front of him against a strong defensive effort from the Michigan Wolverines defense. And Clifford airing it out deep down the left side of the field for Cam Sullivan-Brown on 4th and 2 was a bizarre choice in the moment as well, on Penn State’s final possession of the game.

Clifford certainly looked like he was feeling the effects of getting hit as much as he did against Michigan, and it’s possible he has not really been at 100 percent since his injury against Iowa. Which should make the devotion to the program and gutting it out through difficult times even more commendable.

We’ll see what is in store for Clifford and Penn State in the final two weeks of the season. Next up for Penn State is one final home game, against Rutgers, in Week 12.

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