Daryll Clark's Early-Game Consistency Key to Penn State Victory

Brandon SeitzCorrespondent IOctober 28, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 24:  Daryll Clark #17 of the Penn State Nittany Lions reacts after throwing a first quarter touchdown pass while playing the Michigan Wolverines on October 24, 2009 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Daryll Clark: Quarterback, leader, threat.


During the preseason, some experts considered him to be an under-the-radar possibility for the Heisman trophy. During the first three weeks of the season, Clark proved why.


After throwing for over 750 yards and eight touchdowns in three games of non-conference play, Clark quickly hushed critics who questioned the effectiveness of the “Spread HD” offense with young receivers and inexperienced linemen.


Through the rest of the season and up to this point, he has put up very impressive numbers to keep his name in the Heisman discussion and solidify his position of team leader on the field.


Minus the debacle against Iowa, Clark has completed 66 percent of his passes on the year with 17 touchdowns. The fact is, through all of the competition Penn State has faced thus far, the Nittany Lions’ fortune has immensely depended on the start of No. 17.


Say it however you like—Daryll Clark sets the tone for the matchup. During last year’s only regular season loss at Iowa, he fumbled on Penn State’s first possession while deep in its own territory, giving Hawkeye fans a sense of momentum and a feeling they could pull off the upset.


This year, his one-touchdown, three-interception, and 37.5 completion percentage performance against Iowa mirrored the trouble the Nittany Lions were in. Though he started the game with good enough composure, his inability to keep his focus that night led to turnovers, ineffective offensive possessions, and the eventual loss.


Though the blame obviously can't be solely placed on Clark, confidence and poise in high-stress game situations are what separate a good quarterback from a great quarterback.


Against all other competition this year, his completion percentage either early in the game or early after the half has reflected the tempo and progression of each game.


Against Minnesota two weekends ago, Clark started out the second half completing 10 of 12 passes, continuing time possession dominance and sealing the shutout victory for the Lions.


This past weekend at Ann Arbor featured a confident and consistent Clark as he began the game 8-for-10, starting the offense in the right direction early in the game. He would finish with 230 yards and four touchdowns. It was the first victory Penn State had at Michigan in 13 years.


Depending on the season's finish, should Clark be considered a contender in the Heisman race? Maybe.


For the most part, nothing but wins for the remainder of the year will be just about the only thing pushing Heisman voters to take another look at him.


But as for the Nittany Lions, does their success depend on his performance early in each matchup? You better believe it.