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Life > Experiences

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Career of Sean Clifford

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

I have to start this article with a disclaimer: I am not one of those girls who know the game of football inside and out. I repeat: I do not know the game of football inside and out.

This past year, I’ve definitely become more interested in football. My dad has taught me a thing or two and I’ve picked up a little bit from watching the Lions play throughout my college career.

With our 2022 season in the books, a Rose Bowl Championship and the conclusion of Sean Clifford’s six-year-long college career, I just had to write something.

Love him or hate him, the stats don’t lie. Clifford had an impressive career here at Penn State. I am inclined to remind you, though, Cliff had an extra year of eligibility (in addition to his freshman red shirt) to set these records.

He is the current all-time leader in completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns and pass attempts. With the recent Rose Bowl victory, Clifford earned his 31st win as starting quarterback. He now shares the title of winningest QB in program history with Trace McSorley.

Again, Clifford had an extra year of eligibility. Of course he’s going to have more wins, passing yards and passing touchdowns under his belt — he’s had a rare six seasons to do so!

With that out of the way, let’s get into it. Here is good, the bad, the ugly: the career of Sean Clifford.

An Away Win At Purdue

With less than two minutes in the fourth quarter, the Purdue Boilermakers were up 31-28. Clifford had just thrown an interception, giving Purdue the lead. The clock was ticking, the pressure was on and the Nittany Lions had 80 yards of field ahead of them.

Sometime in the middle of the game, Cliff left the field. In a post-game interview, he explained he had some minor injuries to take care of. Some people speculated it was actually due to tummy issues (poor Sean, the IBS girlies feel you).

I didn’t mind this little Cliff intermission. It was our first chance to see true freshman Drew Allar in action.

Anyways, Clifford got his “sh*t” taken care of and came back for a dynamic final drive. I remember watching these three minutes. It was a true nail-biter, but the Lions looked like a well-oiled machine to me.

Clifford threw a 10-yard pass to Keyvone Lee, thankfully securing the win for Penn State.

Clifford’s Last Ride: The Rose Bowl

Choosing a highlight from this game is nearly impossible.

I wasn’t in Pasadena for this game, but watching it from home was just as exciting. Despite all of Clifford’s hard work on the field, watching his final few minutes on the sidelines was incredible.

It was all so precious — Cliff with tears in his eyes, hugging his teammates, hiding in the crowd with a box of rose petals to shower Coach Franklin. It was a perfect passing of the touch, as Drew Allar got a few minutes of playing time. It was symbolic and nearly theatric.

After the game wrapped up, Clifford began to search for his family. He saved two flowers — one for his girlfriend and one for his mother. Adorable and heartwarming.

The Nine OverTime Game

This one hurts.

Since I was a 2020 freshman, my first year of college football was completely virtual. No fans, no gameday, no tailgates.

I’m not too upset, though. I didn’t know what I was missing out on, so I wasn’t bothered by it at the time. Plus, I saved a pretty penny by not buying season tickets.

The 2021 season was my first in Beaver Stadium and we were off to a hot start. We were on a five-game win streak until our Iowa game where Clifford got hurt. A disappointing loss, but I was sure we could recover.

I was wrong. Our next game was at home and pretty chilly to my recollection. I think it was the Homecoming game, too.

I was surprised to see Clifford starting since he was injured just two weeks prior, but hey, maybe bye-weeks work miracles.

Number 7 Penn State upset by unranked Illinois in a historic nine overtime.

You obviously can’t blame any one player, but this was just pathetic. I can’t help but accredit a piece of this loss to Clifford’s recent injury.

“The Clifford-Dotson Connection”

From empty stadiums to 107,000 attendance sell-outs, this duo has seen it all.

Clifford and Dotson have taken the field together since their respective red shirt and true freshman seasons in 2018.

This season didn’t really seem the same without hearing “Touchdown, Jahannnn Dotsonnn!”

Spending my sophomore season watching these two work together was super cool. It’s no surprise to me that they hold the record for most connected touchdown passes between quarterback and wide receiver at Penn State.

2022 Loss to OSU

Yet another devastating memory that is engraved in my brain.

I am not a fan of noon games, but I got myself up for this one. Despite our recent loss to Michigan, I had a surprisingly good feeling about the Penn State vs. Ohio State game.

At some points, we were winning this game. It was beautiful. The energy inside Beaver Stadium was immaculate.

We really fell apart in the fourth quarter. This game was certainly winnable. We ended the game having lost three turnovers; two of which resulted in fourth quarter touchdowns for the Buckeyes.

I actually shed a few tears over this game. For a fleeting second, I thought we might win.

A 0-5 Start to the 2020 Season

The Covid-19 season really wreaked havoc on the Nittany Lions.

We started off the year with five losses to Indiana, Ohio State, Maryland, Nebraska and Iowa.

Pathetic. Seriously. In 2021, Maryland thought we were officially rivals. I heard that they canceled class and added additional bleachers in their student section, anticipating a sell-out accompanied by a Terrapin win. The Terps have only beaten Penn State three times in program history.

There’s not one particular person to blame the disappointing start to the season on. I just figured it was worth mentioning.

2019 Cotton Bowl

The 2022-2023 Rose Bowl wasn’t Cliff’s first New Year’s Six Bowl Game.

During his true freshman year in 2017, Clifford was along for the ride at the Fiesta Bowl. He experienced yet another, only this time as starting quarterback for the first time — the 2019 Cotton Bowl.

The Nittany Lions went 10-2 that season, with a 7-2 conference record. The Memphis Tigers were looking a little better on paper; going 12-1 overall and 7-1 in the conference.

Over the course of his career, Clifford has racked up 3 wins in New Year’s Six games, acting as starting quarterback in two of those games.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Sean Clifford for as long as I’ve been following Penn State Football. I’m fairly open to suggestion, considering I don’t know too much about the sport to form my own complete, unbiased opinions.

Despite this, I am sad to see Clifford go. He’s been a starting quarterback as long as I’ve been a Penn Stater. It’ll be weird to see a different name called with the starting lineup. But I’m excited to see what Drew can do.

Congrats on a successful career, 14. We are happy to have had you!

Macy is a Pittsburgh, PA native with a passion for reading, writing, tree-hugging and music. She is pursuing a major in Biobehavioral Health, while double minoring in English and Sustainability Leadership on the Humanities Track. Outside of Her Campus, Macy spends her time with her golden retrievers and her camera.