Blue White Illustrated

January 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 59 of 67

6 0 J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 2 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M Q uarterback Sean Clifford's com- mitment to return to Penn State as a super senior in 2022 is historic. If Clifford is the starter for the entire 2022 football season, he will be- come the only Nittany Lion quarterback ever to start for four full years — with the technical exception of Shorty Miller, a player from the ancient single-wing days of the early 1900s. By the end of the 2022 season, Clifford also could be the school's all-time leader in starts by a quarterback. That last fact will take ad- ditional research to confirm. Miller and Tony Sacca appear to be the only four-year starting quarterbacks who were true freshmen when they made their starting debuts. Miller's situation was radically differ- ent than Sacca's. The single wing was still evolving in 1910, and eventually the quarterback would become essentially a blocking back who called the signals. The stocky 5-foot-5, 140-pound Har- risburg native was so talented that Penn State's head coach at the time, Bill Hol- lenback, made Miller the quarterback. Miller became one of three future Col- lege Football Hall of Famers on the 1911 and 1912 teams, which some historians now regard as national champions. Sacca was a true freshman when he started in the fourth game of the 1988 season against Temple at Veterans Sta- dium in Philadelphia because of injuries to the three quarterbacks ahead of him on Joe Paterno's depth chart. Penn State beat the Owls but lost three of its next four games with Sacca at quarterback before backup Lance Lonergan returned for the last three games. The Lions lost the last two to Pitt and Notre Dame, and the 1988 team finished with a 5-6 record, the program's first losing season in 50 years. Except for a few years during World War II and the Korean War, all freshmen were ineligible until 1972. In the years since freshman eligibility was instituted, Sacca and Zack Mills are the only quar- terbacks to have started games for Penn State in four seasons, with Mills taking over the spot as a redshirt freshman in 2001. Four others have started for three seasons: Chuck Fusina (1976-78), Todd Blackledge (1980-82), Christian Hack- enberg (2013-15) and Trace McSorley (2016-18). Fusina played in three games as a true freshman in 1975, while Hackenberg started his entire true freshman season. Blackledge was a redshirt freshman when he got his first start. He and Hackenberg both left early to enter the NFL Draft, doing so in 1983 and 2016, respectively. McSorley got his first start as a redshirt sophomore and held onto the spot for the duration of his college career. Only one true freshman since Miller has been the designated starting quar- terback for an entire season. That was Rob Bolden, a four-star recruit from Or- chard Lake, Mich., in 2010. Bolden beat out sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin for the opening-day start against Youngstown State. He missed some time later in the season due to a concussion and ended up sharing the position with McGloin, an invited walk- on, in the last four games. Bolden was the starting quarterback in the first two games of the 2011 sea- son and continued to be listed as Penn State's starter even with McGloin see- ing substantial playing time. McGloin started six games that year, including three games after the Jerry Sandusky scandal caused the firing of Paterno that November. Late in the 2010 season and through- out 2011, Bolden's erratic on-field per- formance led to his benching and oc- casional booing from fans in Beaver Stadium. Bolden's last start was in the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2, 2012, a game in which Penn State was routed by Hous- ton, 30-14. The following summer, he transferred to LSU. Bolden's situation was far different from the one experienced by Wally Rich- ardson in 1992 when Penn State opened its season at Cincinnati. Richardson had not been expected to play when he was sent into the game midway through the second quarter with Penn State leading, 14-7. A true freshman at the time, he was L O U P R A T O | L O U P R A T O @ C O M C A S T . N E T Clifford is likely to become the first four-year co- captain in school history when he returns to Penn State for his super senior season in 2022. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL PLAYING THE LONG GAME When he returns next season, Sean Clifford will be a rare four-year starter at quarterback for the Nittany Lions

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