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‘I’m Proud of him’: Penn State HC James Franklin Hoping for Rosy end for QB Sean Clifford

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

For some Penn State and Utah players, such as Penn State QB Sean Clifford, the Rose Bowl will be their last college football game.

Clifford has been at Penn State since the  2017 season, and it feels like he’s been there longer.

“I’m going to check the picture of that Rose Bowl played 100 years ago and make sure Sean isn’t in it,” Penn State coach James Franklin  told reporters at a pre-Rose Bowl press conference Sunday evening, “because he’s been playing football at Penn State for a long time.”

The “Clifford is old” jokes have been plentiful this season, and Clifford’s backup, true freshman Drew Allar, made one as well.

No, Clifford wasn’t Penn State’s quarterback in 2022. He didn’t fight in the Civil War and never co-starred in a film with Charlie Chaplin. But Clifford has been playing football at Penn State for a long time, and in that time, he’s drawn plenty of praise and criticism. He’s won and lost games. He’s started for two double-digit win teams and two that underachieving ones.

He’s been cheered and booed.

When Clifford’s done at Penn State, people will have different answers as to what his legacy is.

Clifford’s a polarizing quarterback amongst Penn State fans, but not amongst Penn State’s coaches and players.

“He’s really represented our university and our football program the right way, both on and off the field, in his entire career,” Franklin said, “and he’s been doing it for a long time.”

That time will end after the Rose Bowl, and Clifford already said he’s going to play in the game. Playing in “The Grandaddy of Them All” isn’t a bad way to go out for Clifford or anybody else.

“I’m happy for the whole senior class,” Franklin said. “(Utah coach) Kyle (Whittingham) has been through it, as well, with COVID and everything else that these guys have experienced throughout their career. It’s been different.”

Clifford’s experience at Penn State has been different than that of anybody else in his position.

The man who played QB before Clifford, Trace Trace McSorley, is one of the most popular players in school history. The man who will likely succeed him, Allar, could become a Penn State legend, and many fans wanted Allar, a former five-star recruit, to start at QB this year over the veteran Clifford.

In Clifford’s last game, he’ll have a chance to do what only one Penn State QB has done; win a Rose Bowl. McSorley went 0-1, as did Daryll Clark. Mike Palm, not Sean Clifford, was Penn State’s QB in its first Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day, 1923. He didn’t lead his team to a win.Kerry Collins did that to cap off Penn State’s most recent undefeated season in 1994, but so far, he’s the only one.

Becoming the second Penn State QB to win a Rose Bowl Game would boost Clifford’s legacy for at least some fans.

For Franklin, that legacy is already secure.

“He’s maximized that entire experience,” Franklin said. “He’s maximized it as a student, as a student-athlete. He’s going to go on and be a very, very successful businessman after his football career is done, and he’s done it the right way, and he’s done it with class.

”I’m happy for him. I’m proud of him. And I know he’s going to prepare like crazy to go out and play the best he possibly can against a really tough opponent.”

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