Penn State football’s Will Levis played admirably in place of Sean Clifford.
With 10:30 left in the third quarter, Penn State football was down 21 points and scoreless. Then Sean Clifford went down with a leg injury and things looked even bleaker for the Nittany Lions.
That’s when the college football world was introduced to Will Levis.
There’s an old saying that goes “if you can’t beat them, at least tick them off real good.” Levis and the Lions’ defense did just that. Though Ohio State won, many Buckeyes were frustrated at the idea that a team would play Ohio State and not just let them win by 40 points.
You know you’re punching Ohio State in the mouth when even Buckeye fans complain about Big Ten officiating. And that’s exactly what many Penn State fans were waiting for all game. Someone to come in and punch the Buckeyes in the mouth.
Levis’s running power was evident as he ran through and over Ohio State defenders. His running ability forced Ohio State to focus on him, which took the pressure off Journey Brown and cleared the way for his 18-yard touchdown run.
Penn State was hardly able to move the ball the first two quarters but with Levis behind center, the Lions put up 17 points. They quieted the Horseshoe and, for the first time this season, made the Buckeyes nervous heading into the fourth quarter.
Of course, after that, the wheels came off and the Nittany Lions were unable to score again. But while Ohio State fans were oddly rushing the field when they were 20-point favorites, this Penn State football team was able to walk off that field with dignity and the nation’s respect.
Now, Coach James Franklin seems to have a quarterback controversy. He has the embattled leader, Sean Clifford. Then he has Will Levis, who is a freshman but put up a serious fight and was able to frustrate the Buckeyes.
The buzz about the potential quarterback controversy was kindled after James Franklin’s postgame press conference. He mentioned that Clifford could have gone back in, but he preferred to keep Levis in for a variety of reasons. Some speculate that he’ll keep Levis in from here on out.
It seems that Clifford will remain Penn State football’s number one at quarterback, though. Levis was very impressive. Especially his power running ability and attitude. But the first touchdown drive was set up in Ohio State territory by Clifford’s play before the injury. A nice run then capped it off by Journey Brown to the endzone.
The second touchdown, a run by Levis, was set up by a fumble recovery deep in Ohio State territory, shortening the field for the offense. The drive that ended in a field goal could’ve ended in a touchdown if the offense hadn’t stalled in the red zone.
Levis looked great for a while, but his job was easier. The Penn State defense was elite all game long. They frustrated Ohio State, holding their No. 1 scoring offense to their worst game all season. The Lions scored 10 points off turnovers.
Decision-making might be what separates Clifford and Levis. While Clifford committed no turnovers, Levis threw a very costly interception in Ohio State territory that all but sealed the game for the Buckeyes.
It’s easy to say that Levis provided a spark, and Clifford just wasn’t in a groove. Clifford at least had no interceptions and was playing at a time when nobody on the offense was moving the ball.
Since the third quarter resurgence was more the defense’s doing, it’s hard to say that the outcome would be any worse if Clifford were playing rather than Levis.
CJF also mentioned in the press conference that Clifford was just banged up. He led the team through a brutal October stretch where they went unbeaten. He’s had a tough past couple of games, and it’s probably because he is physically spent.
Though he’s had some rough outings, is playing hurt, and may sit for the Rutgers game, Clifford is still the team’s best quarterback and leader. His play this season is one reason why the Nittany Lions are still in the running for the Rose Bowl. Levis is a very formidable backup and could probably compete for a starting job next season.
For now, Sean Clifford gives Penn State football the best chance to win each game.