November 29, 2021

Watch now: What Penn State QB Sean Clifford had to say to Wisconsin corner after win – Madison.com

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Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) throws a pass during the second half against the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford got the last laugh.

He found Jahan Dotson for a 49-yard touchdown to start the second half, played turnover-free football and finished with 247 yards. Most importantly, he led the No. 19 Nittany Lions to a 16-10 win Saturday over No. 12 Wisconsin.

It was a solid, if unspectacular, performance by the redshirt senior.

But it was all the answer he needed to give to Faion Hicks, the Badgers’ outspoken senior cornerback who earlier in the week said “nothing really stands out much about” Clifford.

“Let him answer that,” Clifford said when asked if the offense’s performance was a good enough response to Hicks’ comments. “Ask him that question after that game.”

After UW fifth-year senior Faion Hicks questioned the Nittany Lions’ offense, quarterback Sean Clifford shared what he thought about the comments.

Clifford was not overwhelming. He also was hounded much of the game, especially in the first half, by UW’s pass rush and missed Dotson a few times on open deep balls. His offensive line gave him no help early, and the offense sputtered to three-and-outs on five of its first six drives of the game.

But the big-play potential Penn State has was on display when Clifford found a wide-open Dotson on the fourth play of the first drive in the second half.

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And most importantly, Clifford played a clean, effective game, avoiding the turnover issues that plagued him last year and at one point got him benched in favor of Will Levis.

“With turnovers, man, the opportunity don’t come around too often,” Hicks said. “That’s the game of football — making most of the opportunities. We definitely didn’t today. Credit to Penn State, but we’ve got to be better. Those turnovers could be a difference-maker in the game. Just got to find a way to be the reason. Whole defense, be the reason that we find a way to come out with a win, score some points or something.”

PSU coach James Franklin called Clifford’s performance “gutsy.”

“Most importantly, it was gutsy, and he kept battling and made plays when we needed to in the second half to get a win,” Franklin said. “So, I’m pleased with him, and there’s gonna be a lot of things, obviously, to learn from.”

Penn State coach James Franklin speaks to reporters after the 19th-ranked Nittany Lions defeated the 12th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers 16-10 on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

Hicks, to his credit, took the blame on the Dotson touchdown, which came with Dotson lined up in the right slot before breaking into a post route, saying after the game he was supposed to drop deeper in his zone.

But Hicks also played well in man coverage against the speedy receiver. He limited Dotson to three catches on five attempts when Hicks was the primary defender in the first half, allowing just 11 yards.

Clifford and Dotson, though, much like the rest of Penn State’s offense, found better success in the second half. The Nittany Lions scored on three of their six second-half drives and would’ve made it four if not for a missed field goal on the next drive after Dotson’s score.

Email Jake Adams at jadams@madison.com or follow him on Twitter @jakeadams520

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