THE STORY LINE

The Morning Call - - SPORTS -

Af­ter Penn State’s 17-10 vic­tory over Pitt, quar­ter­back Sean Clif­ford be­gan his rou­tine of study­ing game film early the next morn­ing. As part of his cri­tique, Clif­ford watched ev­ery in­com­plete pass he threw to find a com­mon ten­dency. One emerged: his foot­work.

Clif­ford no­ticed in­con­sis­tent foot place­ment that led to in­con­sis­tent throws: long, high, low, what­ever. It be­came his fo­cus of the bye week.

“The per­fect ball is not go­ing to hap­pen ev­ery sin­gle time,” Clif­ford said. "But I’ve got guys all across the field that I know can make plays for this team. So I need to give them a chance ev­ery sin­gle time."

Clif­ford rolls into Mary­land con­fi­dent that his bye-week re­set will have pos­i­tive ben­e­fits. He was the Big Ten’s sec­ond-best quar­ter­back (per data from Sports Info So­lu­tions) through the first three weeks but still had changes to make.

Clif­ford cited foot­work and con­sis­tent ac­cu­racy throw­ing deep as two pri­mary ar­eas of growth. Ac­cord­ing to Sports Info So­lu­tions, the Co­play-based an­a­lyt­ics firm, Clif­ford was 6 for 10 on passes of 20 yards or longer in the first two games and 0 for 8 against Pitt. Penn State also wants to im­prove its third-down pass­ing rate of 38.9 per­cent.

Mary­land will do its best to up­root Clif­ford’s foot­work and third-down ef­fi­ciency with a pass rush that ranks sixth na­tion­ally in sacks (4.33 per game). Clif­ford can help al­le­vi­ate those sit­u­a­tions by throw­ing the ball quickly. Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ricky Rahne can help as well with plays de­signed for shorter, more im­me­di­ate throws.

Penn State will con­tinue to take shots down­field, par­tic­u­larly if Mary­land fol­lows Buf­falo and Pitt’s de­fen­sive plans that tempt such throws. The Lions win by two touch­downs if Clif­ford hits a few.

Clif­ford

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