Penn State Football just finished up the 2022-23 season with an 11-2 record and a Rose Bowl win
Penn State Football hasn’t had many issues knowing who its quarterback was going to be during James Franklin’s tenure.
First it was Christian Hackenberg in 2014 and 2015 and then Trace McSorley from 2016-18 and lastly Sean Clifford from 2019 to the present. Franklin had one of the steadiest quarterback situations in the country with only four (Will Levis started twice) different quarterbacks starting a game over a nine-year span.
That stable situation was tested in 2022 with 5-star recruit Drew Allar arriving on campus. Ranked as the No. 1 quarterback in the nation by 247 Sports, expectations are high for Allar.
His arrival coincided with Sean Clifford returning for his sixth season and fourth as the starting quarterback of Penn State football.
Some fans wanted Franklin to go to Allar right away and let him go through his growing pains now. This likely meant the Nittany Lions would drop a game or two that they normally wouldn’t.
For the future of the program, this didn’t seem like the worst idea, but after going 11-11 the past two seasons, Franklin was not going to surrender any opportunities to win. And nor should he, you play to win the game.
The experienced Clifford gave Penn State football the best chance to win going into the 2022 season.
And win the Nittany Lions did. After starting the season unranked, Penn State started 5-0 and rose to the No. 10 team in the nation. The decision to stick with Clifford and go for it in 2022 was working.
Then the Nittany Lions hit a snag. They were crushed by Michigan 41-17 and two weeks later lost to Ohio State 44-31. Clifford had four turnovers in the Ohio State game.
Now with two losses and firmly out of the Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff discussions, more fans began to clamor for Allar, but Franklin stayed the course with Clifford.
“Who cares if you lose another game? The season is already lost.”
But was it?
Sure, the Playoff was out the window, but after two disappointing seasons, the opportunity to make a New Year’s Six Bowl didn’t sound too bad.
Franklin stayed with Clifford and the veteran quarterback rewarded his head coach by finishing the regular season 4-0 and Clifford himself completed 65.6% of his passes for 727 yards, seven total touchdowns and just one interception.
The Nittany Lions found themselves at 10-2 and in prime position to reach the Rose Bowl after both Michigan and Ohio State made the Playoff.
Now that the regular season was over, some fans still called for Allar.
“Who cares about a meaningless bowl game?”
The Rose Bowl is meaningless? Franklin and his team certainly didn’t think so.
The Nittany Lions came out swinging against Utah and dominated the Utes in the second half to earn a 35-21 victory and secure a Rose Bowl win. Clifford had arguably his best game as the quarterback of Penn State, going 16-21 for 279 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.
It was a storybook ending for one of the most polarizing players in Penn State Football history.
The 2022 season was a success for Penn State, there’s no other way to put it. The Nittany Lions won the same number of games as they did the last two years combined. Penn State also won its first Rose Bowl since 1995 and heads into the offseason with a ton of momentum.
Sean Clifford helped create all that momentum.
Now, Franklin and his offensive staff did not ignore the fact that Allar is the future of this program. There were numerous times throughout the year that Franklin pulled Clifford earlier than he may have in the past and let Allar sling it a few times.
In the end, Allar appeared in ten games and attempted 60 passes, completing 35 of them. His 60 attempts were the third most by top 20 rated quarterbacks from the 2022 recruiting class. Only fellow 5-stars Cade Klubnik (Clemson) and Connor Weigman (Texas A&M) had more and both of them were forced into duty because of injuries and struggling quarterback play.
Multiple lower ranked quarterbacks from the 2022 class saw more action than Allar, but they were at struggling programs who weren’t playing for much this past season.
Allar also received more pass attempts as a true freshman than the likes of Bryce Young (22), C.J. Stroud (0), Justin Fields (39) and Drake Maye (7) did as true freshmen. That didn’t seem to hurt them, as they all had monster seasons as the starter the following year. If Allar lives up to his ranking like these four did, there shouldn’t be much of an issue here.
If Allar struggles in 2023, it won’t be because he only had 60 pass attempts as a true freshman. He has a full offseason ahead of him in which he will receive every first team rep in practice. He also likely benefitted from the extra practice Penn State received leading up to the Rose Bowl. The Nittany Lions had 36 days between the end of the regular season and the Rose Bowl.
Franklin, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and the rest of Penn State’s offensive staff found the happy medium between playing to win in 2022 and preparing for the future of the program.
Sean Clifford leaves Penn State first all time in completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns and wins by a quarterback. It’s now Drew Allar’s time to try to break all those records.