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Daryll Clark leads Penn State to Capital One Bowl victory

Submitted by on January 2, 20107 Comments
Daryll Clark made some clutch plays in Penn State's victory over LSU

If Penn State was supposed to have trouble with the SEC speed of LSU, they can thank Mother Nature for pouring rain on a field that was hosting its second bowl game in four days for creating a surface that would slow down the Tigers. Penn State jumped out to a 13-3 lead at the half and needed a field goal in the final minute to knock off the LSU Tigers in the 2010 Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Nobody was more determined to deliver a win to Penn State than embattled quarterback Daryll Clark. Entering the bowl game Clark was well aware of the pressure he was facing to come away with a big win over a good team. With a record of 0-4 in “big games” Clark’s legacy was doomed to be in line with guys who have a reputation for performing well against most teams but coming up small in games against the top opponents. With the calendars flipping to 2010 perhaps Clark said out with the old and in with the new as he orchestrated a game winning drive against an LSU team that had taken control of the game in the second half.

After the game Clark was overwhelmed with emotion that he fell to his knees as tears trickled down his face on the sideline. The realization that he leaves Penn State as one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in program history and had a bowl victory to boost certainly meant a lot to the fifth year senior and team captain. But what made it so dramatic for him was the way he arrived at the moment.

After each team failed to move the football much in the first few possessions it was Clark who opened up the scoring with a 37 yard pass to a wide open Derek Moye for a touchdown in the first quarter. LSU started the second quarter with a field goal of their own and the Tiger defense was credited with getting the team to halftime down just ten points. Penn State could not convert on first and goal and two drives before the end of the first half. LSU’s defense stuffed the running game after Penn State seemed to be moving the ball with little trouble into the red zone. Not scoring a touchdown in either of their last two scoring possessions gave a feeling that something would come back to haunt them.

After halftime both teams battled back and forth with good defense. Penn State scored a field goal off the leg of Collin Wagner with 2:27 remaining in the third quarter to give Penn State a 16-3 lead and it looked as though the Nittany Lions were on cruise control. But a good kickoff return by LSU gave the Tigers a short field. A 24 yard pass from LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson to Brandon LaFell, who had some key dropped passes throughout the game, brought the Tigers to within one score of Penn State just before the end of the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter LSU took their first lead of the game on a one yard rush by Steven Ridley. The score put LSU up 17-16 but Penn State had plenty of time to pick up a field goal. But the offense appeared loss against the LSU defense for much of the quarter.

With time running out it was up to Clark to drive his team to victory. With 6:54 remaining in the game and starting their own 31 yard line Clark made some clutch passes to extend the drive and move the Nittany Lions into field goal position. A touchdown would have been nice but penalties stalled the offense down near the end-zone on the 65 yard drive. Instead Clark would have to stand on the sideline as Wagner attempted a poor angle field goal near the end-zone to give Penn State the lead. Clark, with the pressure mounting could not watch as he kept his back to the field goal attempt in the choppy field. Wagner’s kick was good to give Penn State the 19-17 lead and leaving LSU with just over a minute to score their own field goal. But the Tigers had no timeouts remaining so they would need to move quickly.

As has been a problem for Les Miles and the Tigers at times earlier this season, LSU did not show the clock management needed to win late in the game, and a critical personal foul on the Tigers took away thoughts of a field goal on a second and six from the Penn State 45 yard line. The foul was for pulling Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman off from his tackle too aggressively after the whistle. LSU was trying to get the ball set as quickly as possible, but their exuberance went a little too far in trying to rip Bowman off the ball carrier on the ground. Bowman did not appear to be stalling, in fact he was not given enough time to try and delay the carrier from getting off the ground. The costly penalty placed the ball back at the LSU 40 yard line and the Tigers had just two plays left. After an incomplete pass on 2nd and 21 the Tigers completed a pass on the final play of the game but they had to reach the end-zone. The Penn State defense was determined to not let that happen, and they recovered a fumble to end the game as the Tigers tried lateraling to keep the play alive.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

For Penn State the decade ends with another bowl victory against an SEC team. After a rough start to the decade Penn State finished off the first decade of the 2000′s by winning a pair of Big Ten titles and going 4-1 in bowl games. While the Big Ten continues to be a conference with a bad reputation in big games (although New Year’s Day treated the conference well) the Nittant Lions are doing what they can to uphold the Big Ten’s image. The loss to USC a year ago in the Rose Bowl hurt but Penn State has defeated two SEC teams in SEC country and a Big XII team in their home state, as well as a PAC 10 contender last season. No Big Ten team can claim to have done the same over the last five seasons.

Daryll Clark leaves Penn State on a high note

It would be hard to go with anyone but the Penn State quarterback on this day. With everything going through his mind and the mounting pressure to deliver a big win, Clark found himself leading the team down field when they needed him the most.

It was not a best performance of the year for the fifth year quarterback, going 18-for-35, but his 216 yards and one touchdown pass were needed just as much as his ability to set up the game winning field goal late in the game.

WHAT’S NEXT?

For Penn State it is time to focus on the recruiting class of 2010. Now is the time to brag about a bowl victory on New Year’s Day against an SEC team in hopes of luring in and securing their verbal commitments. It is also a time to say good-bye to the seniors who will move on. Many will try their luck in the NFL like Sean Lee, while others will go another way. Also keep an eye on some juniors, like Bowman and Evan Royster. A decision to leave for the NFL a year early would not be out of the question and with the likely possibility of rookie pay rates coming to the NFL, it would be a wise move to jump to the pros now if they feel comfortable with their stock.

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