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Penn State Football

Prugar’s 3-and-out: PSU QB Sean Clifford Goes out on Top

Sean Clifford Rose Bowl
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) celebrates during the Rose Bowl game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Utah Utes on January 2, 2023 at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire)

The last time Penn State played in the Rose Bowl, it suffered an agonizing loss.

This year was much different with Penn State taking down Utah 35-21 Monday.

 QB Sean Clifford lead the way in his last college game, throwing for 249 yards and two touchdowns.

Beyond Clifford, Monday’s performance was as complete as Penn State has shown all season in all three phases. The offense moved efficiently and dominated the splash play category while the defense dialed up pressure against the Utes in the second half that never allowed them to get comfortable, and even special teams, where long snapper Chris Stoll pinned Utah at their own one yard line after saving a punt from going into the end zone, played a role.

Penn State needed this one. Clifford needed this one and coach James Franklin especially needed this one. It got it. Now, Penn State is Rose Bowl Champions.

SAINT NICHOLAS

To watch Nick Singleton with the ball is a thing of beauty. Singleton has shown multiple times throughout his true freshman season that he’s indeed another special player to make his home in the Penn State backfield.

On the grandest stage, the country found out firsthand just how special Singleton could be with his 87-yard third-quarter run. He blew through an excellent block by Theo Johnson before outrunning the entire Utah defense en route to the end zone.

Singleton finished with 120 yards on seven carries and a touchdown on the afternoon. Sure, the number of carries could’ve been higher, but that would’ve required Penn State to have the ball more.

His long run is just another in a line of incredible plays by Penn State running backs in the Rose Bowl.

#TBT: Ki-Jana Carter in the 1995 Rose Bowl pic.twitter.com/FKD1ex8tTH

And Saquon Barkley to name a few.

DIALING LONG DISTANCE

Penn State emphasizes winning the explosive play battle every week. The Rose Bowl was no different, but rather than just winning the explosive play battle, Penn State dominated it.

Singleton got the party started with this 87-yard run in the third quarter to put Penn State up 21-14.

It didn’t take long for the Nittany Lions to dial long distance once again, this time Clifford finding KeAndre Lambert-Smith for an 88-yard strike.

The double move was a thing of beauty and it helped put the game completely out of reach for Utah.

THE ‘SEAN CLIFFORD EXPERIENCE’

Clifford bookended his four years as Penn State’s starting quarterback with New Year’s Six bowl victories. His first came in his first year as a starter 2019 when the Nittany Lions took down Memphis in the Cotton Bowl.

This game – however – was about as perfectly written as possible. Clifford showed poise in the pocket, ran when necessary and made great decisions throughout.

It was this type of game that endeared Clifford to the Penn State faithful, but this type of performance is what was expected of him week in and week out yet was mired with inconsistency at times.

Clifford finished his career tied for most wins with Trace McSorley at 31 and earned this well-deserved curtain call.

His performance also earned him the offensive MVP Award for the Rose Bowl Game.

JAMES FRANKLIN’S HOT SEAT METER

There’s no meter. He’s won the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Cotton Bowl now at Penn State. Embrace the meaningful wins.

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