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Franklin Says No Immediate Decision Regarding Starting Quarterback Moving Forward

by on November 14, 2020 5:20 PM

Penn State football got a spark from redshirt sophomore quarterback Will Levis on Saturday afternoon in place of starter Sean Clifford, but coach James Franklin wasn’t prepared to name a permanent starter just yet.

“We’re not going to name a starting quarterback right after a game before discussing it as a staff and before, you know, evaluating the tape, watching the tape, and all those types of things,” Franklin said following Penn State’s 30-23 loss at Nebraska. The defeat dropped the NIttany Lions to 0-4 on the year as the Big Ten’s only winless team.

Levis, who took over following Clifford’s second turnover of the afternoon early in the second quarter, managed a 14-for-31 afternoon for 219 yards and 61 yards on the ground. Levis was primarily used as a runner in the first half before Penn State opted to let the sophomore throw the ball in the second as the Nittany Lions charged back after falling behind 27-6.

Clifford’s first turnover, an interception, was his sixth of the year. His second turnover, a strip-sack returned for a touchdown, the second of the same variety and result in as many weeks.

According to Franklin, the time, score and greater context of Clifford’s struggles over the course of 2020 led the change to be made. Earlier this week Franklin had warned against any thought that Clifford might be benched, but ultimately his continued struggles and waning confidence seemingly forced the issue.

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“Where we were at in that game with the turnovers, and with what’s gone on this season so far, we had to make that change,” Franklin said. “I thought Will did some really good things coming in, so obviously, that’ll be a discussion all week long.”

Saturday’s changed marked the third time Levis has seen significant snaps over the past year, his first action coming in 2019 against Ohio State in place of an injured Clifford. Levis would then start the following week against Rutgers, posting a fairly modest outing against the Scarlet Knights.

A year later Levis looked confident but limited early in his watch as Penn State opted to use his legs far more than his arm. However in the second half Levis made several plays with his arm including a beautiful scramble and 74-yard pass to a wide open Pat Freiermuth.

The redshirt sophomore was ultimately sacked on two consecutive plays to effectively end the game but did pass for 136 yards in the fourth quarter including a few impressive and well-placed throws along the way.

“He went in and gave us a spark. He made plays in the passing game,” Franklin added. “I thought he did a good job managing the game overall, and he made some good throws, so we’re going to have to build on that.”

If Levis were to start this coming week it would mark the first in-season quarterback change for Franklin while at Penn State unrelated to injuries. Either way Clifford and/or Levis will have their work cut out for them against a talented Iowa team set to visit Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

“I went in there and executed what I had to execute, but it just wasn’t enough,” Levis said. “There’s room for improvement all across the board, especially in the red zone. It means nothing if you get the ball all the way down there then don’t score. It’s something we need to work on in the future.”

“The season’s not over until it’s over.”

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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