Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford was "beat up" after the Michigan game, coach James Franklin said, but keeps getting up, a feat his coaches and teammates respect.
"Sean's special in that respect," punter Jordan Stout said Tuesday. "You'd think after that game that he would be complaining in the locker room, and he hasn't at all."
Michigan sacked Clifford seven times, and hit him on five other occasions, in its 21-17 victory over the Lions last week at Beaver Stadium. The game continued a season of duress for Clifford.
Clifford has been sacked 27 times and pressured 143 times, according to Sports Info Solutions, the second-highest totals to Nebraska in the Big Ten. Among conference quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks, Clifford ranks fourth in sack rate (6.7 percent) behind Iowa's Spencer Petras (9.5), Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (8.5) and Minnesota's Tanner Morgan (7.2).
"Sean's a competitor," Franklin said. "He's tough, he’s given everything he can to this program and to this university and his teammates. But he was beat up [during the Michigan game]. He was getting hit too many times."
It wasn't the first time. Clifford left the Iowa game following a big hit and ultimately played hurt the following week against Illinois, which ended in a nine-overtime loss. The quarterback since has said his body feels good, which he reiterated in a media call before the Michigan game and to teammates after it.
"I even texted him, checked in on him, and he’s just as positive as ever, says his body feels great," Stout said. "I think that’s unbelievable, because I know it hurts. But he hasn’t wavered a bit and seems to be doing really well."
Penn State is a 17.5-point favorite against Rutgers, according to SI Sports Book, a line that depends largely on Clifford's health. The quarterback also could be playing his last game at Beaver Stadium, should he decide not to return for the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted athletes in 2020.
"He is battling his tail off, and I love him and I’m super proud of him," Franklin said. "And I know he’s going to have a great week of practice this week and I know he’ll do the same thing and play his tail off on Saturday."
Penn State hosts Rutgers at noon Saturday. Big Ten Network will televise.