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Buffalo Penn St Football (copy)

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, right, sprints away from Buffalo safety Joey Banks on along gain during the third quarter Saturday in State College.

There was room to move. Maybe, that’s the important thing to note.

He offered the handoff to freshman running back Noah Cain, then pulled the ball back. He ran straight ahead to the Buffalo 39, took a left turn and saw green. He turned the corner, sprinted down the Penn State sideline, left three Bulls defenders in the dust.

By the time cornerback Aapri Washington tripped him up inside the Buffalo 5, Clifford had a 58-yard run that made one thing clear: The preseason talk about his improved mobility was not just lip service from the coaching staff.

“I think you guys saw that Sean was able to make plays with his mind, able to make plays with his arm, and (Saturday) was able to make plays with his feet as well,” head coach James Franklin said Saturday night.

Clifford holds the record for the longest touchdown pass in program history and, with that run in Penn State’s 45-13 win over the Bulls, he holds Penn State’s longest run by a quarterback of the decade.

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Granted, it’s just two games into the season, but the storyline surrounding Penn State’s four-headed rushing attack is tempered a bit because the team’s leading rusher is its supposedly slower-footed quarterback.

“You can always get better. I think I’ve done a decent job so far,” Clifford said this week. “What people don’t understand is, this is not completely new to me; I was doing RPOs (run-pass options) in high school. In college, everything gets a little bit faster, but it’s about getting used to the pace of the game. It just comes with experience, and everyone knows experience is the most valuable asset you can acquire.”

After the Buffalo game, in which Clifford threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns in addition to that big run, he was asked about improvements in his own mobility and decided instead to talk about things he needs to improve.

Decision-making, he said, needs to get better. That throw earlier in the game to Jahan Dotson for a 28-yard touchdown? Just not as accurate as he wanted it to be, as he needed it to be. His footwork in the pocket, he adds, gets really sloppy at times and affects, well, everything.

While teammates praise him, he said he focuses on what it takes to get better.

“I really do not enjoy complimenting myself, especially publicly,” he said. “There’s always something you can do better. If I broke down Tom Brady’s film, I can probably tell you something he can do better. I’m not saying that I have any right to be critiquing Tom Brady, but at the same time, I think Tom Brady would say he has things he needs to work on. I think that’s every player in football. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse, and I’ve always taken that as my motto.”

Meanwhile, as the Nittany Lions prepare to play Pittsburgh on Saturday for the only time in the renewed four-game series without Trace McSorley under center, they say they remain confident in Clifford in every phase of the game. The pass. The run. And other areas that, to them, are even more important.

“He’s what you ask for in a quarterback,” receiver Jahan Dotson said. “He’s a great leader, a very verbal leader, and he leads by example. He knows how to control the game; he does that very well. He’s just someone you can always go to.”

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