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Giger’s game breakdown: Clifford needs to get rid of the damn ball

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Sean Clifford

OFFENSE

PSU: Sean Clifford has to get rid of the damn ball. It’s clear he’s trying to do too much, because the running game just isn’t reliable.

But in trying to do too much, Clifford is doing one of two things wrong: He’s either holding on to the ball too long, or just the opposite, he’s deciding too early to give up on the receivers and just taking off and running. Now, his scrambles have been successful, so it’s hard to fault him too much there. Except for the fact that all of those extra runs are causing him to get hit more than you’d like, especially when he goes down head first and takes a hit instead of sliding.

On the long TD pass to Jahan Dotson that put PSU up late against Indiana, Clifford pulled a Trace McSorley by stepping up in the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield and finding a receiver running free. We need to see more of that. We also need to see more of Kirk Ciarrocca calling plays that allow Clifford to make quick throws — such as slants and bubble screens to wideouts, quick tosses to Pat Freiermuth or screens to backs out of the backfield.

By doing that, Clifford won’t have to think too much and can just let it rip before the defense gets on him. PSU’s offensive line has been a big problem, and one way to counter that would be for Ciarrocca to stop calling for plays that take a long time to develop and just having Clifford get the ball out of his hands fast.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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