Notes From Media Day
August 17, 2011 – | No Comment

Before I begin, I should probably explain why we haven’t posted in a while. Frankly, it’s just been bad timing. I just got back from a study abroad program in Europe, and Charlie is still …

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The Curious Case of Daryll Clark

Submitted by on November 6, 20092 Comments

It’s not hard to grasp the impact that Daryll Clark has had on this Penn State football team, even as someone who’s only seen meaningful snaps in two seasons.  After the struggles of Anthony Morelli, Daryll Clark stepped in and guided this team back to where it belonged. He brought the Nittany Lions to their first Rose Bowl in fifteen years last season, and has Penn State poised to repeat their successes of a year ago, with the potential for another 11-1 season and BCS bowl berth.  But he’s been more than just a leader, he’s been a force on the field, and probably deserves even more accolades than he’s earned to this point.

Daryll Clark needs a win tomorrow to cement his legacy
Daryll Clark needs a win tomorrow to cement his legacy
Everyone knows about the competition with Pat Devlin prior to last season, one that Clark eventually won, but Daryll performed like a veteran despite his lack of experience last year.  In his first year as a starter, Clark was, simply put, tremendous, passing for close to 2600 yards, with a 60% completion percentage, 19 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He lived up to the billing as a dual-threat quarterback, too, adding almost 300 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Clark inherited perhaps the best situation for a new quarterback to step into, with a veteran offensive line and accomplished group of senior wide receivers, a strong running game, and a dominant defense that gave him good field position and plenty of chances.  But that shouldn’t take anything away from Clark, who found himself twice named the Big Ten offensive player of the week, a semi-finalist for the Maxwell and O’Brien awards, and a consensus first-team All-Conference player.

Coming in to this year, Clark had become the unquestioned leader of this team, and he’s backed up that reputation with, once more, some sterling performances on the field.  Despite a much weaker offensive line, and an entirely new group of receivers, Clark has actually upped his completion percentage this year, and has already passed for close to 2200 yards, leaving him just 500 yards short of Kerry Collins’ single-season record of 2,679 yards, and that’s with 3 regular season games, and a bowl game, to go.  He’s scored 23 touchdowns this year–passing for 18 and rushing for 5–against just 7 interceptions, numbers that compare especially well when held up against those of Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, and virtually any other quarterback in the nation not named Jimmy Clausen.  So why isn’t Daryll Clark in the running for the Heisman Trophy? Why isn’t Daryll Clark mentioned among the best players in college football?  Why isn’t Daryll Clark considered a future franchise QB for an NFL team?

As Frank Bodani writes, in the York Daily Record, it’s because he hasn’t had a truly defining moment in his entire career.

Lose on Saturday and the talk will resurface about how Clark couldn’t win, and finish, a big game.  How he never played his very best when it mattered the very most. How he suffered meltdowns in two excruciating losses to Iowa.  They will compare him with former Lion QB Michael Robinson, lavishing praise on Robinson for the way he completed crucial rallies and elevated his game with everything on the line.  And they will whisper about how Clark shrunk under the hot lights.  They will shake their heads. He was really good, they will say. We really liked Daryll.

But . . .

As much as I am loathe to admit it, Bodani makes a great point.  Zack Mills had the comeback against Ohio State in 2001, that gave Joe Paterno his 324th win, passing Bear Bryant for the most in NCAA history, and will always be remembered for his courage and determination, fighting through injuries and being the bright light during some very dark years.  Michael Robinson had the victory over Ohio State, sure, but I’d point to the Northwestern game for the defining moment in Robinson’s career.  Let’s be honest, Robinson wasn’t a great passer by any means. Hell, he doesn’t hold a candle to Clark in that regard.  But he was the definition of a leader.  If Daryll Clark were to never play another game in Penn State history, what would he be remembered for?  Beating two down-and-out Michigan teams?  Running up the score against outmatched opponents?  Would it be his showing courage and standing in the pocket, though in defeat against USC in the Rose Bowl?  Or pitiful performances against Iowa, in 2008 and 2009, that cost Penn State a chance at a national title each year? Sitting on the sidelines as Pat Devlin engineered the go-ahead drive in the Shoe last year?  If pressed, I’d have to go with the image of an angry Clark, storming about the Penn State sidelines while Devlin brought the Lions to their first win in Columbus in 30 years.

This game means more for Daryll Clark than it does for the rest of the Penn State team, and it’s simply due to the nature of the game.  Few people talk about the legacy of a running back, or a defensive tackle, or a linebacker.  Nobody refers to 2006 and 2007 as the Paul Posluszny years or the Tony Hunt years.  No, they make up the Anthony Morelli era.  2005 wasn’t about Tamba Hali or Alan Zemaitis, but rather Michael Robinson.

And so when we look back at the 2008 and 2009 seasons, we won’t remember Evan Royster or Jared Odrick, or Navorro Bowman, but Daryll Clark.  And the problem is that, for all of his successes, there’s no lasting image of Daryll Clark in our minds.  Clark has lost every close game in his career, and won in blowout fashion.  We are, of course, throwing out the Ohio State game for purposes of this comparison, because Clark left the game trailing.  But in the rest of his career, Clark has never won a game by fewer than 14 points, and has lost just three games in his career, all in brutal fashion.  We don’t need to revisit the Iowa games, or the Rose Bowl of a year ago,  but in those three losses, he’s competed under 47% of his passes, and thrown just 3 touchdowns against 6 interceptions.  Even in the Ohio State game last year, he was merely mediocre at best, completing 12 of 20 passes for just 120 yards, with nary a touchdown pass or interception.

Daryll Clark’s legacy hinges, almost entirely, on the outcome of tomorrow’s game. Should he lose, Clark will gain the reputation of a player who was great, but not when it mattered.  Sure, he could beat the Illinoises and the Minnesotas of the world, but he crumbled under the pressure of playing a nationally ranked opponent.  Lose tomorrow, and the doubts come creeping in, that Daryll Clark just couldn’t win the big one.And you know what, Michigan really wasn’t any good when he beat them. And he wasn’t in there when the Lions overcame the Buckeyes last year.  If Penn State goes down to the Buckeyes on Saturday, it’s a bigger loss for Daryll than it is for anyone else.

But win tomorrow, and he’s the fir quarterback in Penn State history to sweep Ohio State and Michigan in consecutive years, and he’d make Penn State the first school to accomplish that feat in over 40 years.  Win tomorrow, and he’s almost certainly led Penn State to back to back 11-win seasons for the first time since 1985 and 1986.  Win tomorrow, and the Penn State faithful forever mentions Clark’s name alongside Kerry Collins, and Todd Blackledge, and Chuck Fusina. Win tomorrow, and come Sunday, they’ll be talking about Daryll Clark as a darkhorse Heisman candidate.

Win tomorrow, and Daryll Clark puts the final touch on a legacy that matches up to his incredible play on the field.

So despite how humble Daryll Clark is, and no matter how much he wants to take the emphasis off of himself, it doesn’t matter.  The outcome of this game means everything for Daryll Clark, and what we’re saying about him in 20 years.  This one’s for all the marbles.

And I couldn’t be more confident in the man Penn State has under center.

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  • psudad

    Great article, I know we'll win today with Clark at qb

  • psudad

    Great article, I know we'll win today with Clark at qb