Welcome to the 2021 edition of the Sean Clifford passing chart. Each week we'll break down Clifford's passing performance as well as highlight a few key plays, good and bad. Enjoy!
Sadly, we have but one passing chart image to dissect this week as Sean Clifford was knocked out of the game midway through the second quarter against Iowa. Still, odd as it may sound with two interceptions on the docket, this was shaping up to be a great day for the Penn State quarterback.
Interceptions Don't Tell the Whole Story
For one looking at this box score, a logical conclusion to draw would be that Clifford did not have a good day, given that he threw two interceptions during his time in the game. However, as a fan of Clifford's, I'm not heartbroken about either play. The first one, which came on his first throw of the day, simply seemed like bad luck. With Clifford scrambling to avoid pressure, it looked like he was simply trying to throw this ball away until he had his leg taken out from underneath and lost the momentum behind the throw as a result. Unfortunate.
The second interception came on a deep ball to Jahan Dotson which may not have been the greatest decision but firstly, it's a ball that you'd hope Dotson would normally at least defend from the defensive back. Considering how great Dotson normally is at tracking the ball in the air, it seemed like the wind came into play a bit one this one. Situationally, I'm also fine with this throw. The worst-case scenario is the interception, and then you're putting your stellar defense out on the field with the weak opposing offense pinned deep. It was fine.
Reasons for Optimism
Assuming that Clifford's injury is not too serious and the quarterback is able to return for Ohio State (why be pessimistic about it?), what we saw from him in this game should excite you. Yes, even given the interceptions.
In the five previous games Iowa played this season, opposing quarterbacks threw for 156, 252, 185, 155, and 174 yards. In just over 17 minutes of game time, Clifford threw for 146, putting him comfortably on pace to eclipse 300 yards against an outstanding Hawkeye defense. Not only that, but he led his team to 17 points in those 17 minutes. Iowa opponents have scored 17 points in a full game just once (Iowa State). Simply put, Clifford was doing to Iowa what no one has done to Iowa.
Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism, however, is that Penn State's offense didn't have to do anything abnormal to beat the Iowa defense while Clifford was in the game. This was the same game plan we've seen all year long, using bubble screens to get quick and easy yards, using crossing routes, and clever play design to get guys open – all things we've seen from Mike Yurcich and Clifford all season long. This offense has the juice to score on anyone.