A Review Of Penn State’s Victory Against Michigan State As Team Heads Into Bye

A Review Of Penn State’s Victory Against Michigan State As Team Heads Into Bye

Penn State Football Bye Week

We did it again, folks. On the season, we are 9-3 against the spread and total points. For the season, we are 5-1 against the spread and 4-2 on the total points lines. All three losses have been extremely close. The big story, however, is that Penn State is still in the driver’s seat to make the College Football Playoff, with only two more big games left on the schedule.


Last week’s road victory over Michigan State was impressive, given the conditions. Michigan State did exactly what we predicted they would do, by running shorter routes to make an effort to get the ball out before the pass rush, as well as running the ball way too much. Penn State also had the advantage of the weather as their twelfth man. The weather really played into the plan of Penn State, which was to contain the running game and force Brian Lewerke to beat them deep.

It was a tremendously successful plan as Penn State held Michigan State to just 2.7 yards per carry over 31 rushing attempts. There was one missed assignment on a deep ball that set up the Spartans only score, but it was a pretty clean defensive performance otherwise.

Offensively, Penn State stuck to a heavy dose of rushes (37 attempts but just 3.1 YPC) but balanced it with good play action passing. Penn State was able to capitalize most on a few coverage mishaps on intermediate throws. Three of the four Penn State touchdowns came on intermediate throws. The first was a dime when Clifford scrambled right and dropped a high ball right into Pat Freiemuth’s mits along the sideline, just over two defenders. The second was more impressive from a mental standpoint as Clifford sold the run-pass option to Journey Brown, looked and moved right two steps to hold the strong safety to the right, and fired a ball over the middle of the field to hit Freiemuth on a seam route, inside of the free safety and too far away for the strong safety to close in time.

It was a move of a veteran NFL quarterback and definitely not something you expect from a collegiate sophomore. Clifford made some clutch throws throughout the rest of the game, but those two stood out to me most because it showed me some things few college football fans get to witness.

Just how good is Sean Clifford?

To me, Clifford has the intangibles to play at the NFL level. He’s shown us a plethora of throws this season and he appears to be going through progressions at the level of an experienced quarterback, and that is very promising for a Sophomore to demonstrate.

His footwork can use some work as he occasionally doesn’t step into his throws or plant his feet and drive the ball quickly. He doesn’t get those hips rotating consistently like you’d want a quarterback to see. Scouts and coaches want to see good, quick footwork, hips being utilized, and the same mechanics utilized quickly and consistently. When it all comes together, it lowers the accuracy variance on his throws.

This explains why we’ve seen the levels of inconsistency from his accuracy this season. Regardless of his mechanics, Clifford has shown he’s a great quarterback and is certainly capable of making the kinds of throws that can lead a team to a championship.

Next week, we will take a look at the upcoming road showdown in Minnesota against the undefeated Golden Gophers. Enjoy the week off and fight on, Penn State.