Clifford, Freiermuth, and the Secondary; What’s Going on at Penn State

Sean Clifford and the secondary have been getting a lot of heat. Sometimes people can go too far. May no act of ours bring shame. Remember Penn State fans?
STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 16: Sean Clifford #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions hands the ball off to Journey Brown #4 as Michael Ziemba #87 of the Indiana Hoosiers defends during the second half at Beaver Stadium on November 16, 2019 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Did you know that you can get a loaner phone from Apple? It is kind of like a loaner car. You take your phone, they send it to the place Apple fixes things and then they give you one out of a box. Then they tell you not to break it and to bring it back. You may be wondering what this has to do with Penn State football. Well, that’s how I watched the Nittany Lions bounce back against Indiana. Without the loaner phone, my Saturday would have been lacking Penn State football. So, thanks Apple, even if it is your fault that my phone is broken. So, what happened this week? Clifford, Freiermuth, and the secondary deserve better.

Clifford, Freiermuth, and the Secondary

I wrote an article a few years ago essentially begging Penn State fans to calm down. That the team is fine, the coaching staff is doing fine, and they are not very far off from being great. Now, the Nittany Lions are 9-1 with one loss to a good Minnesota team. A loss that did not showcase Penn State at their best. The thing about it is, nobody is perfect. We all have days where we could be better, do better. That doesn’t mean fans can love this team any less. Every Saturday these young men go out and fight for the blue and white. Saturday against Indiana showcased their toughness.

Penn State Overcomes Loss of Hamler, No Cain

Star wide receiver KJ Hamler went down early with a likely concussion. He is hopeful to return for Ohio State. Hamler and tight end Pat Freiermuth are quarterback Sean Clifford‘s main targets. Without Hamler, the passing game definitely took a hit. Further, this was the third straight game without explosive freshman running back Noah Cain. The absence of Cain has really allowed Journey Brown to come out of his shell, so even though Cain is missed the next man up mentality is alive and well for the Nittany Lions. In the last two games without Cain, Brown rushed for at least 100 yards in each outing. In addition, he has three touchdowns through two contests.

Mackey Award Update

Semifinalists and finalists were announced in some of the awards that a few Nittany Lions were up for. It turns out that Freiermuth, who is arguably one of the best tight ends in the country and a leader in the Big Ten, was not selected as a Mackey Award semifinalist. During his weekly press conference, Head Coach James Franklin stated, ” I can’t imagine there are eight tight ends in the country that people would pick over [Freiermuth]. Maybe a couple. But eight?! No.” He stated further, “…But again that’s coming from the biased head coach at Penn State.”

Freiermuth is on track to lead the Big Ten in touchdowns for a second straight season. When asked about not making the list, the captain, who is always leading by example said, “It’s disappointing. I thought I did everything I could to prove I’m one of the best tight ends in the country, but the award doesn’t define who I am.” A great response by an even greater young man. He then went on to praise fellow tight end Nick Bowers’ play against Indiana. Freiermuth also said that he plans to win the award in the future, which is interesting because he is indeed eligible for the NFL draft after this season. When asked to elaborate? He said he is focused on Ohio State.

Clifford and the Secondary Deserve Better

When a redshirt sophomore quarterback that has led his team to a 9-1 record is receiving death threats there is a severe problem. These are 17 to 24-year-old young men playing for a school that we are supposed to love and support. It is a shame that a student-athlete had to delete his social media from his phone because of things people were saying about him and to him due to a loss. People that are supposed to have his back.

Clifford has 22 total touchdowns this season and six interceptions. Were some of those throws ill-advised, maybe, but some were also not entirely his fault either. It is a team sport. For a signal-caller that had no meaningful snaps before this season, I think he is doing a nice job. The team is 9-1 and he shoulders the blame and gives away success. That is something everyone should want in a quarterback.

Now, the Penn State secondary. Has it been excellent at all times this season? No. Are you excellent at all times? I highly doubt that. Franklin stated this week that blown coverage happens to everybody, and he is right. It does. The problem is that the blown coverage has resulted in too many big plays. He understands that and when asked about Ohio State he said, “We’re gonna have to match their confidence on Saturday and match their playmaking ability.” Can that happen? Maybe.

What Has to Happen?

So, the moral here? Clifford and the secondary deserve better. Further, this entire team deserves better from a fraction of the Penn State fans. There were years growing up that I dreamed of a 9-1 season. I dreamed of Penn State being able to compete with Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. This team has done that and is still doing it. Try to remember the years that Penn State fans dreamed of this and enjoy it. Football is supposed to be fun. Let’s try to remember the common love that we all share for this university and this team.

Penn State fans usually pride themselves on acting a certain way. It is in the Alma Mater, “May no act of ours bring shame to one heart that loves thy name.” I think with the ability to say whatever you want behind a keyboard, some people have lost sight of that phrase. One of the first things you learn in the Student Section at the football game is to yell that line as loud as you can. It is something that we, as Penn Staters, take pride in. Please, don’t ruin that.

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