After being the starter for all of the 2019 season, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford’s job is in jeopardy. During last weekend’s loss to Nebraska, he was pulled for Will Levis during the game.
Clifford was 5-for-8 for 37 yards and an interception during the 30-23 loss to the Huskers, in a battle of previously-winless teams. Levis came in and gave the team a bit of a spark, though his passing statline won’t blow anyone away. He completed 14-of-31 throws for 219 yards, and added 61 yards on 18 carries. He does add that dimension to the offense.
Penn State, now 0-4, is preparing to play Iowa on Saturday. Right now, head coach James Franklin isn’t committing to either quarterback as his starter for Saturday, something that hasn’t been an issue for the program in years, after Trace McSorley started all 40 of the team’s games from 2016-18.
“We’ve had some pretty good conversations and we were clear with the quarterbacks about how this week was gonna go, and also with the team,” Franklin told the media on Wednesday, per 247Sports. “Obviously you’d like to be in a different scenario, but I think the guys have handled it well.”
For the 1st time under James Franklin, Penn State is working an in-season game week without a declared QB1 for performance reasons.
There is Sean Clifford, a 2-time captain. There is Will Levis, a 3rd-year sophomore. There are new comments from Franklin: https://t.co/7wnzLUoZ20
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) November 19, 2020
Franklin, as diplomatic as you’d expect from a coach in this situation, highlighted the good portions of both players’ resumes. “We’re gonna need both of them,” he said.
“We’ve got some situations where Will has played some good football in the past, whether it was coming in against Ohio State [in 2019] when Sean got hurt, or coming in last week in the second half and doing some good things,” Franklin said. “And Sean has got a history of doing good things as well. I think they’re two guys that the team trusts, and we’re gonna need both of them.”
Penn State is staring down a program-worst 0-5 start if it loses to a decent Iowa team. The Hawkeyes are 2.5-point road favorites, per Caesars Sportsbook.
On the season, Clifford is 74-for-130 for 896 yards, nine touchdowns, and six interceptions. Outside of a slight uptick in raw yardage, most of his stats are trending downward from last season. We’ll see if a poor first four games is enough for James Franklin to make the switch to Levis for Saturday’s start.