Clark Proves He Can Play With the Best as He Leads Team to 7-0 Start
-Mike Prince, Sportswriter
Daryll Clark or Pat Devlin? That was the question on every Penn State fan’s mind since the 2007 season ended and someone needed to step up as the team’s next starting quarterback.
Daryll Clark was the answer. And he proved why he was the coach’s choice this past Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, as the Nittany Lions dominated the Badgers all game en route to a 48-7 win.
In their previous two visits to Camp Randall, the Lions scored a combined six points. But with Clark at the helm and one of the best defenses in the nation swarming the Badger-attack, the Lions refused to be denied as they racked up 377 yards of total offense.
Call it what you want. A statement game for Penn State. Joe Paterno rubbing it in Bret Bielema’s face for his antics in the 2006 matchup. Penn State proving to Mark May and the rest of the country that they are not overrated.
Well, you can think of all that. But two things are for sure: One, Penn State is a force to be reckoned with and two; Daryll Clark is the real deal.
Clark went 16 for 25 for 244 yards passing (an incredible 193 of those in the third quarter alone), threw for a touchdown and ran for two more. But what Clark gives to this Penn State offense, you cannot read in the box score.
While running the new “HD Spread” offense, Clark has given the voters reason to consider him to as a Heisman contender. At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Clark was expected to run a “Michael Robinson-type offense,” running the option and using his athleticism and size to fake out and run over defenders.
Over the course of the first seven games of 2008, Clark has proved he can do that and more.
Clark has turned himself into one of the better “pocket quarterbacks” that Penn State has seen in a long time. His pocket presence against Wisconsin was astounding.
With a tremendously gifted offensive line in front of him, Clark is given the time to make plays and show his true talent. While people may have been expecting Clark to be more of a Michael Robinson or Pat White-type QB and have about the same if not more rushing yards per game than passing, they are getting so much more out of him.
If you look at only the wide receivers numbers and box scores of each Nittany Lions game this season, you might think that Devlin has been running a bulk of the offense.
But Clark has learned how to read defenses. He has learned to stand in the pocket and find the open receiver. He has learned to spread the ball around to anyone who is on the field. He has done all of this while still keeping his opponents guessing to what play he is going to run, because Clark has the size and athletic ability to run the option and beat teams with his feet as well as with his arm.
To the die-hard Penn State football fan, Clark still has a lot to prove. A convincing win over Michigan (a team that has not lost to the Lions since 1996) and a win at the hostile Horseshoe and Ohio State may just put him into the elite class of Nittany Lions quarterbacks.
While Clark has been near mistake-free this season, it will take a little more to classify him with someone such as Robinson—a player that led his 2005 team that started the season ranked 60th to a near perfect season and an Orange Bowl birth and win.
Although the competition has been significantly easier than in 2005, Clark has led Penn State to a 7-0 start, a record that the ‘05 team, while only one (controversial) second away from attaining, could not achieve. He is however, emulating Robinson in a big way. And he is doing so with the help of the former Lion.
Robinson, who like Clark, had to wait his turn to become the team’s starter and went through a lot of adversary from the media when he did so, has proved himself worthy of the job in his first full season as the starter. Now, Robinson is doing his best to steer Clark in the right direction, sending him positive text messages before big games and just reminding him to relax and play his game.
On Saturday, Clark did just that. He played his game. He spread the ball to seven different receivers, including a perfect 44-yard pass to Deon Butler for a score. His second touchdown run showed the resilience that he possesses, breaking tackle after tackle and carrying defenders on his back before falling in the endzone for one of the more impressive four-yard quarterback carries that you will see.
With ten touchdowns and only two interceptions from behind center, to go along with his 64.4 completion percentage, conference-leading quarterback rating and six touchdowns on the ground, Clark is quickly showing everyone that Paterno and his coaching staff know what they are doing.
While Devlin may not get to prove himself for another year or two, there is nothing that Clark has done this year that hasn’t been short of perfect. So while it would be great to what Devlin can bring to the table, Penn State fans have nothing to complain about right now after staying undefeated with the convincing win over Wisconsin.
Clark was the choice before the first game. He has remained the starter going into week eight without any losses under his belt. His dominance over a team that was ranked eighth-overall just three weeks ago has not gone unnoticed. He is the player to watch right now. Two more wins, and he will give Penn State a reason to be THE team to watch.