Rose Bowl 2023: Penn State QB Sean Clifford reflects on journey

LOS ANGELES — Quarterback Sean Clifford’s college career will come to an end with an opportunity to win a Rose Bowl Game for Penn State on Monday against Utah (10-3).

It would be just the second Rose Bowl victory for the Nittany Lions (10-2) in five appearances and the first since 1995 when quarterback Kerry Collins and running back Ki-Jana Carter led the team to a 38-20 victory over Oregon.

Clifford wasn’t born when Penn State won that game, but 20 years later he would make his initial commitment to the Nittany Lions in 2015.

He wouldn’t officially join the program until signing his National Letter of Intent as a member of the 2017 recruiting class, just months after Penn State’s last Rose Bowl appearance (a 52-49 loss to USC).

“I remember I was driving in the car back home, and it was my dad and my buddy Matt Bockhorst (who ended up going to Clemson) and I, but we both got offered that day,” Clifford said. “… It was just a different feeling when I got offered. I felt like I was really at home. I felt like it was the right fit. And then not too long later I committed.”

The Nittany Lions have won their last four games of the season but haven’t played since a 35-16 victory over Michigan State on Nov. 26.

Clifford was able to use that downtime as an opportunity to let his body recover from the regular season while also spending time with his family and reflecting on the journey that followed that commitment eight years prior.

“We were actually going through my parents’ TV,” Clifford said. “It’s an old TV, and they recorded all the games, so we just went back and watched a bunch of them.

“It was so much fun because we convinced them to get a new TV. So they were getting rid of it, and they were going to lose all the games on the recordings, but we were just going through it, and just all the cool experiences, all the teams I’ve played on were just fantastic.”

Clifford has thrown for 2,543 passing yards for 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 12 games played this season.

The Rose Bowl Game will allow him to add to his decorated career and his record-setting marks with the Nittany Lions.

Clifford currently holds the school record for passing yards (10,382), passing touchdowns (84), and pass attempts (1,335). He also holds records for completion percentage (.612) and completions (817).

“I’ve kinda been through the fire with him through the up years and the down years but no matter what, he has always been the same person and whenever things are bad he never wavers or flinches,” Penn State tight end Theo Johnson said. “He’s always just Sean and it’s been great looking at him as a leader because he really shows you what a leader is about and not just being a leader when things are good but also how to be a leader when things are tough.”

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After being able to reflect on the ups and downs that come with a six-year college career, Clifford is ready for what comes next.

“I’m excited for my last game,” Clifford said. “I’m excited to represent Penn State one more time and do it in a big fashion like the Rose Bowl.

“So I can’t ask for anything more. Realistically, I’m having a blast and enjoying every moment of it.”

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