Blue White Illustrated

November 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 9 of 67

1 0 N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 1 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M P enn State's path to a 5-0 start to the 2021 football season was built on a mature approach to the ups and downs of a typical game, a care- ful avoidance of mistakes and a thor- ough appreciation for the importance of playing complementary football. Then came Week 6. At Iowa, the then-No. 4 Nittany Lions fell to the No. 3 Hawkeyes, 23-20, in a game that was marked by just the opposite. In addition to the game itself, Penn State lost the turnover battle, the field position battle and the explosive play battle. Even worse, the Lions lost two key senior leaders to injuries, with quarterback Sean Clifford and defensive tackle PJ Mustipher both having to leave the game in the first half. Where the team goes in the second half of its season will be determined by its response to the Iowa loss and its lingering effects on the depth chart. In the meantime, here's a look back at the highs and lows of the first half of the 2021 season: BEST PLAYER: It's hard to argue that any Nittany Lion has been more important than Clifford. If anything, his absence in the second half of the Iowa game underscored just how vital he's been to the team this year. Through six games, Clifford com- pleted 118 of 178 passes for 1,482 yards, throwing 11 touchdown passes and five interceptions. He also rushed for 173 yards and two scores. With a passer-efficiency rating of 151.0, Clifford ranked 24th in the cat- egory among Power Five quarterbacks through the first half of the regular season, a massive turnaround from his 2020 campaign in which he struggled with interceptions. PENN STATE AT MIDSEASON After a strong start, the Nittany Lions hit some turbulence just ahead of the season's second half NATE BAUER | NBAUER@BLUEWHITEONLINE.COM NEWS & NOTES Fifth-year senior quarterback Sean Clifford was Penn State's most indispensible player in the first half of the season, completing 66.3 percent of his pass attempts for 1,482 yards. But he was injured at Iowa, and his availability heading into the second half of the season was in question. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL

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