Penn State football career revisit: quarterback Daryll Clark

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Daryll Clark
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Daryll Clark /

Daryll Clark led a Penn State football resurgence during the 2008-2009 seasons. In two years, the Nittany Lions won 22 games with Clark under center.

The 2008-2009 seasons don’t sit at the top of Penn State football’s illustrious history. Nevertheless, the brief successful stint brought about a new era featuring quarterback Daryll Clark.

Clark put up big numbers all while clinching a 2008 Rose Bowl bid and winning the Capital One Bowl in 2009. The team produced a lot of NFL, but it’s Clark that made the machine go. Clark became the complete package during his career. He dazzled with his strength and speed on the ground, and he kept things compact and efficient in the passing game.

Before we dive into his accomplishments, let’s look back on the events prior to his take over.

Setting the scene

A thrilling Orange Bowl win in 2005 punctuated an up-and-down early 2000s. The dual threat Robinson led an exciting Penn State attack resulting in an 11-1 season, the first double-digit win season since 1999.

Unfortunately for Penn State football, Robinson’s lone season at the helm left the Nittany Lions in quarterback limbo. He started the only year of his career in 2005 and graduated. Anthony Morelli took the reigns to the Nittany Lions’ HD spread, but no one was worried. Morelli entered with a lot of hype and excitement (Story Credit Land of 10).

The hype turned out to be too a little too high. Morelli did some nice things, but he never turned into the star quarterback many expected. Penn State slipped into back-to-back 9-4 seasons. The 2006, 2007 squads worked themselves into respectable teams but nothing spectacular.

Morelli helped get the Nittany Lions into Big Ten title contention, but he didn’t put them over the top. In his two seasons, the highly touted quarterback went a combined 9-7 in Big Ten play.

All that to say, Morelli played pretty well and helped the Nittany Lions reload not rebuild. He threw for more than 5,000 yards, 30 touchdowns against 18 interceptions and improved nicely during his two years as a starter.

Nevertheless waiting in the wings, unheralded dual threat Daryll Clark stayed patient, and it paid off. He wasn’t a five-star prospect or a freak athlete, but he overachieved for the Lions.

Clark commands HD

Penn State’s Spread HD or “Highly-Diverse” offense fit Clark and the Nittany Lions like a glove. Former quarterback coach Jay Paterno began using Clark early in his career. It began with his power and strength in the red zone. He rushed for five touchdowns through his first two seasons and added another rushing threat on the ground.

Furthermore, Penn State’s offense capitalized on the team’s athleticism in innumerable ways. Clark took full advantage of his opportunity with the receivers and running backs could play almost any position possible.

It started with a nine-game win streak to open the 2008 season. Throughout the streak he tossed 11 touchdowns against just two interceptions and played within himself.

Regardless of the strong start, a pesky Iowa squad snuck up and beat the Lions 24-23 ending their shot at a national title in game 10. Ultimately, the season ended with the Nittany Lions winning a Big Ten title and earning a Rose Bowl game bid. Clark peaked in the regular season finale tossing four touchdowns during a 341-yard performance against Michigan State. His battering ram rushing style and savvy decision-making made him a rare breed.

In 12 of 13 games, he played solid scoring multiple touchdowns in nine games and recording just one multi-interception game. After an 11-2, 2008, the team returned loads of talent and Clark as well.

Clark’s senior season didn’t quite live up to the success of the 2008 campaign, but it’s a season that flew under the radar. The Nittany Lions failed to repeat as Big Ten Champs including losses to Iowa and Ohio State, but they went 10-2 reaching the Capital One Bowl. He threw for more than 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns at a 60.9 completion percentage clip.

In a sloppy, monsoon-driven struggle against LSU, Clark led the game-winning drive to seal a 19-17 bowl win. It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but it brought the Nittany Lions win total to 11 for the second straight season.

Despite two brutal career outings against Iowa and a loss to USC in the Rose Bowl, he put stability at a position that rarely saw it during the 2000s.

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In all, Clark compiled more than 5,500 passing yards, 43 touchdowns against just 16 interceptions.  He then added nearly 500 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. He should receive more recognition as an all-time great Nittany Lion.

Penn State football features greats like Kerry Collins and Todd Blackledge at the game’s top position, but Clark should be on there as well. With multiple school records and two premier seasons, he’s deserving of more respect.