Rose Bowl: PSU aims 'to shock the world'
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LOS ANGELES -- Daryll Clark doesn't have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but come Thursday the junior quarterback hopes to become the toast of Tinseltown.
For that to happen, Clark must lead No. 6 Penn State (11-1) past No. 5 Southern California (11-1) in the Rose Bowl.
He said the underdog Nittany Lions are "going to try and shock the world."
• Game: Penn State (11-1) vs. Southern California (11-1).
• When: 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
• TV: WTAE.
• The skinny: USC led NCAA Div. I-A, allowing 7.75 ppg., had eight games where it allowed 7 points or less and pitched three shutouts.
Clark has been one of the leaders of Penn State's Spread HD offense. But there is a big challenge awaiting him and the rest of the offense, which averaged 40.2 points per game.
USC's defense is arguably the best in the country, ranking No. 1 in scoring defense (7.8 points per game) and total defense (206.1 yards per game), and No. 5 in run defense (83.3 ypg).
"They have talent all over the defensive side," Clark said. "We have been watching film on them a lot. They just scrap it up and play. They have a lot of guys that can run to the ball. We have a lot of things that we are going to do to succeed against their defense."
Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, who recently ended Penn State's three-year stranglehold on the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defender, is the star of USC's defense with a team high 73 tackles.
He and four other Trojans were named to the All-Pac-10 Conference first-team. Other selections included defensive tackle Fili Moala (4 1/2 sacks), linebacker Brian Cushing (66 tackles, including 10 for losses) and hard-hitting safeties Taylor Mays (49 tackles) and Kevin Ellison (47).
"They'll get in the faces of our wideouts and try to re-route them, and they'll come up and play run support," Clark said. "We'll have to do a good job of executing the play that's called."
With backup quarterback Pat Devlin's departure to Division I-AA Delaware earlier this month, Clark likely won't run as much against USC.
If he were to be injured in the Rose Bowl, the Lions would be down to wide receiver Derrick Williams, who has taken direct snaps from the shotgun in the Wildcat formation, and Paul Cianciolo, who has played in just three games.
"Obviously, [Derrick] can run whenever he gets a chance to because of all the speed that he has," Clark said. "He is a smart player. If he were to concentrate on quarterback, he'd be really good, no doubt in my mind."
Clark's brother Keith, a Los Angeles resident, will get a chance to watch his younger sibling play college football in person for the first time. Earlier this week, Clark sang a few verses of Silent Night at the team's annual Christmas party, and he was a big hit with his teammates and their families.
Then again, Clark has delivered for the Lions all season.
He threw for 2,319 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first year as a starter while leading Penn State to an 11-1 record. He was intercepted only four times and named an All-Big Ten first-team performer.
In the season-finale against Michigan State Nov. 22, Clark passed for a career-high 341 yards as the Lions clinched a share of the Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.
"He's one of the best college quarterbacks right now," Williams said.
Clark, from Ursuline High School in Youngstown, Ohio, finished a distant second to Iowa tailback Shonn Greene in the voting for the Silver Football, presented by the Chicago Tribune to the Big Ten's MVP.
Not a bad turnaround for Clark, who had to spend a year at Kiski School to boost his ACT score. He finally succeeded on his fourth try before enrolling at Penn State.
"The guy that really should take the credit would be [quarterbacks coach] Jay Paterno, because at one time I was doubtful whether Daryll would ever be a good enough passer because he had a little bit of a jerky motion," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said.
"He obviously was a strong runner, a good competitor. He was a little bit, not backwards, but shy as far as being the leader he became. ... He had a heck of a year and he's a heck of a football player."
First Published December 28, 2008 12:00 am