Ranking the Top-10 Individual Performances of The James Franklin Era (Part 1)

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NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Ranking Penn State Football’s Top 10 Individual Performances of the James Franklin Era (Part 1)

In the decade that James Franklin has been the head coach of the Penn State football team, the Nittany Lions have seen plenty of good and bad performances, highs and lows, victories and defeats.

James Franklin, Penn State Football
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

However, here we will focus on just the highest of highs, the best individual performances of the Franklin era. Because Penn State has seen its fair share of amazing individual performances over the past decade, I will break this down into two parts so that each historic performance can have its own spotlight.

Here are the top 5 through 10 Penn State Football individual performances of the James Franklin era:

10. Lamont Wade vs. Ohio State (2019) 3 forced fumbles, 2 TFLs, 1 Sack

Former five-star cornerback Lamont Wade may not have lived up to the lofty expectations set for him at Penn State, but his 2019 game against the Ohio State Buckeyes earned a shoutout on this list.

In the 11-point Penn State loss, Wade forced three fumbles, recovered one fumble, and accumulated 10 tackles, two tackles for a loss, and a sack. Wade forced one fumble at the goal line on a diving Justin Fields to save an Ohio State touchdown in the contest.


9. Sean Clifford vs. Utah (2022 Rose Bowl) 279 Yards 2 touchdowns

No Nittany Lion may have had more of a roller coaster career than Sean Clifford.

From highs taking the team as a first-year and fourth-year starter to 11 wins, including New Year’s 6 Bowl wins, to lows of being benched for Will Levis during the COVID season to everything in between, Sean Clifford’s career in Happy Valley was one wild ride.

His 2022 Rose Bowl performance against Utah was the perfect swan song for his time in Happy Valley, throwing for 279 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 35-21 Penn State victory.

Clifford’s stats from the Rose Bowl don’t pop off the page as much as some others on this list, but his leadership and efficiency along with the situation earn its place on this list. To start the fourth quarter, Clifford threw an 88 yard touchdown pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith to put the Nittany Lions up two scores in the longest pass play in Rose Bowl history.


8. Penn State WR Chris Godwin vs. USC (2017 Rose Bowl) 187 Receiving Yards 3 Touchdowns

While this performance may have cost Penn State another year with wide receiver Chris Godwin, Godwin’s Rose Bowl performance from 2017 elevated him up draft boards and earned his place on this list.

In the 2017 Rose Bowl, Godwin caught nine passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, including a fantastic 72-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

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7. Daequan Hardy vs. UMass (2023) 2 Punt Return Touchdowns

This inclusion is a bit of an odd one out, as most games from this list are against premier opponents from big matchups.

It felt weird however, to leave off a historic performance that has only been done 25 times in college football history and only twice in the Big Ten.

Against UMass in 2023, Daequan Hardy returned not one but two punts for touchdowns on three punt returns. In the game, Hardy accumulated 129 punt return yards and two pass deflections.


6. Trace McSorley vs. Wisconsin (2016 Big Ten Championship) 384 Yards and 4 Touchdowns

After upsetting Ohio State in 2016, Penn State used a little magic and a little help to make it to James Franklin’s first Big Ten championship game.

Trace McSorley, “The Magician,” came to play in Indianapolis once the Nittany Lions got there.

With 384 yards and four touchdowns, McSorley led the Nittany Lions to their first Big Ten championship under head coach James Franklin and the first for the program in eight years.

Late in the fourth quarter, McSorley found Saquon Barkley on a wheel route over TJ Watt for the game-winning touchdown pass.

Penn State Football, Penn State Football Recruiting, James Franklin
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Check back in tomorrow for part two featuring the top five individual performances of the James Franklin era for Penn State Football.

MORE: The Biggest ‘What Ifs’ of The James Franklin Era

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