Revisiting Penn State's Blunder With Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin

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Revisiting Penn State's Blunder With Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin
(Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)

It was Oct. 25, 2008 and under the lights at the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio, where the No. 3 Penn State Nittany Lions, still undefeated, were going to battle with the No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Penn State was eight games removed from a quarterback controversy in which head coach Joe Paterno decided to name then-senior Daryll Clark as the team's starting quarterback over sophomore Pat Devlin.

Not long into the season, Clark was given an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, which essentially made the possibility of Devlin being named the starting quarterback not until his senior year.

Still, on the brisk night that was, it was the fourth quarter and the Buckeyes had a 6-3 advantage on Penn State. Starting Nittany Lions passer Clark had to leave the game due to what head coach Joe Paterno called a "minor" head injury.

In came everybody's favorite player, the backup quarterback, Pat Devlin.

Now, Clark obviously wasn't lighting up the scoreboard or stunning Ohio State's defense prior to his injury, so the expectations for Devlin were rather grim.

Still, behind the legs of Royster, the Lions offense marched down the field and with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter, Devlin snuck one in for a score. The extra point made it 10-6 in Penn State's favor.

The Nittany Lions would go on to kick another field goal and beat the Buckeyes 13-6 in Columbus. This was Penn State's first win at Ohio State since joining the Big Ten.

The emotions were bittersweet. Many were worried about Clark's status for the next game at Iowa while others were celebrating, rioting on the streets of State College.

Some, especially NFL scouts, were excited because they thought they would get a chance to see Pat Devlin, a big, strong-armed passer with decent mobility.

Scouts agree that Devlin was and still is a much better pro prospect than Clark.

But, with an extra week of rest before they travel to Iowa, Penn State was able to get Clark healthy enough to play in what would be the most disastrous game for Penn State in years.

Their hopes were dashed on Nov. 8, 2008, when Iowa upset No. 3 Penn State.

Daryll Clark was devastated.

Rumors of Pat Devlin transferring were being grumbled from Beaver Avenue all the way down to Downington, Devlin's hometown.

Prior to the Rose Bowl, it was announced that Pat Devlin would transfer to Delaware.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but after a porous season thus far for Penn State and Clark, although much of the blame should be placed on the coaches and offensive line, one has to wonder where Penn State would be right now if Paterno had chosen Devlin over Clark.

With little film to go off of, Iowa's head coach Kirk Ferentz, who absolutely owns Penn State, would have had a much more difficult time game-planning for Devlin.

Penn State, hypothetically, could have beaten Iowa and proceed to run the table. Being undefeated would have surely guaranteed them a spot in the national championship over the one-loss Oklahoma Sooners.

Penn State, could they have been crowned national champions in 2008, quite possibly, but they weren't and we will never find out.

Pat Devlin is succeeding in Delaware in 2009, the same school that produced first-round pick QB Joe Flacco, selected by the Baltimore Ravens in 2008.

Devlin is completing nearly 66 percent of his passes. He has thrown for 1,252 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions. He has also rushed for four touchdowns, bringing his total touchdowns scored to 11.

Meanwhile, Daryll Clark has completed 61 percent of his throws for 1,133 yards, nine touchdowns, and six interceptions. Clark scored his only two rushing touchdowns last week at Illinois, bringing his total number of trips into paydirt to 11.

But, it seems like time lost for Penn State since we have the whole "who knows what would have happened" scenario with Devlin in 2008. Devlin, a junior, would still have one more year under his belt for the Nittany Lions while Clark will be gone after the season.

Mistakes happen often, and we always wonder what could have been.

According to NFL scout Walter Cherepinsky, Pat Devlin is currently ranked as the No. 10 quarterback prospect for 2010 (as an underclassman) and No. 6 for the 2011 NFL Draft.

Daryll Clark is ranked No. 17 for the 2010 NFL Draft.

Meanwhile, for the 2010 NFL Draft, I have Devlin ranked No. 4 and Clark slotted at No. 19.

Finally, it would be hard for any quarterback to find success behind the makeshift offensive line at Penn State, be it Clark, Devlin, or Kerry Collins.

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