James Franklin sticks with Sean Clifford in win over Indiana while Drew Allar excels in second half

Story posted November 6, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Alex Rocco

BLOOMINGTON, In. — After falling to Ohio State 44-31 last week, many fans began calling for James Franklin to make a switch under center.

However, that change never came as sixth-year senior quarterback Sean Clifford opened Saturday’s contest against Indiana as the starter.

While fans had petitioned for true freshman Drew Allar to start over Clifford since he came to Happy Valley, that possibility became much closer this week.

During the week, Franklin met with several assistant coaches, including Mike Yurcich, Manny Diaz and Danny O’Brien.

Despite entertaining the idea of Allar making his career first start against the Hoosiers, the staff came to an agreement to stick with the veteran.

“Nothing had changed,” Franklin said. “I told you I had discussions with members of the staff, but nothing had changed from our perspective. Everybody still saw it the same way.”

The discussion to start Allar amped up greatly after the blue and white lost to Michigan a few weeks ago with a College Football Playoff berth virtually impossible.

The argument for Allar to start was to have him get meaningful reps early in his freshman year, as it would significantly help his development.

In dealing with his quarterback situation, Franklin wants to check off as many boxes as possible for the current team as well as the future.

“We would’ve loved to get Drew in this game. That was part of the plan to hopefully continue to get him as many reps as we possibly can,” Franklin said. “It really wasn't a whole dialogue, it was one discussion that we had. And after that, we just kind of went back to our normal operation.”

The most important factor to Franklin is winning as many games as possible in 2022 and going with the player he feels can do that.

The Nittany Lions haven’t had a double-digit victory campaign since 2019, and after picking up a 45-14 win on Saturday, they are well on their way.

The blue and white improved to 7-2 on the season, and with three games left, it will have to win out to reach the 10-win mark.

Franklin and the rest of the coaching staff are confident in Clifford to lead them in reaching their goals.

With his six years of experience, Clifford has nearly seen it all and handled many tough tasks in his rollercoaster career.

On Saturday, Clifford played the entire first half and the opening drive of the third quarter leading his team to a commanding 31-7 lead before being replaced by Allar.

After the game, Franklin discussed the things that set Clifford apart from the rest of the quarterback room.

“He does a great job of managing protections,” Franklin said. “Great job of all the checks that we're using in the run game or the fine motions and things like that we do to account for guys.”

It’s extremely easy to look at the stat sheet and the shiny five-star rating and say Allar deserves to start over Clifford, but it’s the little things Clifford does that help win games.

During his tenure in Happy Valley, Clifford has faced his fair share of criticism, but fans can’t deny the fact he has given everything he’s had to the program.

“I can’t get mad at people being critical,” Clifford said. “And I won’t get mad at people being critical. I’m just blessed to be in the position that I am. I’m living out a dream that I’ve had for years and years and years. So for me, I don’t really pay attention to it because I’m just the happiest dude.”

Clifford finished Saturday’s game completing 15 of 23 passes for 229 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

While it wasn’t the most flashy stat line, the Cincinnati, Ohio, native did enough to help his team cruise to a much-needed victory.

As for Allar, he looked great, completing nine of 12 pass attempts for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

The Medina, Ohio, native’s first touchdown pass was extremely rare to see from a freshman as he rolled out to his right and fired a laser across his body right into the hands of Harrison Wallace III.

His second touchdown pass of the night went to Theo Johnson after a beautiful play-action fake that fooled the Hoosier secondary.

Even though Clifford’s day was done, he was seen cheering on Allar from the sideline, consistently mentoring and celebrating with him after his two touchdown tosses.

“I thought that Drew made a lot of good plays today. He just keeps continuing to grow.  Drew and his attitude toward everything is fantastic,” Clifford said. “We’re just such a tight-knit quarterback room. That just makes it so easy to come into work, and that’s been the best part of all of this.”

With Clifford and Allar playing well on Saturday, it makes the decision on who to start at quarterback that much tougher for Franklin.

However, Clifford’s career is rapidly coming to a close, and he’s focused on playing his best football and making the most of the time he has left donning the blue and white.

“If you take all the outside noise away, and you look at what I’m doing right now, I’m living out my dream of playing college football at the highest level for a team that I’ve been a captain for four years — for a community that has had my back and realistically been very good to me,” Clifford said.

Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email alex.rocco1702@gmail.com.