Clifford, Ramsey face off again

The last time Peyton Ramsey and Sean Clifford were on opposite sides of a football game, it was 2015.

Ramsey, the quarterback for Elder High School, was running from one sideline to the other, trying to find an alley to the end zone for a two-point conversion and an overtime win.

Clifford, leading Saint Xavier, watched as his rival Ramsey, heading left and then reversing field to the right sideline, threw across the field to an open receiver inside the end zone’s left-most boundary.

All the zig-zagging was wiped away by a penalty, making Elder kick a long extra point to force a second overtime. But that’s where Ramsey’s squad eventually won it, 24-17, in an October meeting of Cincinnati rivals.

Ramsey, bound for Indiana, finished 17-of-30 for 190 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for another 76 yards and a score. Clifford, the Penn State commit, completed 7-of-17 for 79 yards and a TD in the loss.

Saturday, Clifford and Ramsey meet under very different circumstances. Clifford, now a redshirt sophomore, wants to get his season back on track after the No.9 Nittany Lions’ first loss of the season. Ramsey, the redshirt junior, finds himself at the head of a Hoosier team on a four-game conference winning streak, wanting to keep the magic alive.

“Really good player, super talented, great leader from what I know, and I do know him on a personal level,” Ramsey said of Clifford. “But yeah, he’s a really good player. He’s tough. He’s going to be a handful. But he is a good player and our defense will be ready for him.”

Clifford will have the Hoosiers’ utmost attention this weekend. The 6-foot-2, 216-pounder has not only thrown for 2,271 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2019, but he has carried the ball more times (87) than either of Penn State’s running backs, Noah Cain (68) and Journey Brown (65).

Ramsey, for maybe the first time all season, will have the full and undivided attention of a Big Ten defense. In past weeks, it’s been a game-time decision between Michael Penix Jr. and the Hoosiers’ backup. But with Penix now sidelined for the season, IU went into a bye week with Ramsey clearly atop the depth chart.

Penn State, which faced Penix briefly in last year’s 33-28 victory at Memorial Stadium — the game Penix’s true freshman season ended with an ACL tear — will only have to plan for Ramsey and, possibly, backup Jack Tuttle.

“We’re to the point in the season where they’ve seen enough on Peyton to kind of know,” IU offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said. “Every week we bring different wrinkles to the table, no matter who the quarterback is going to be, and that’s just part of our game-planning.

“But, yeah, there certainly won’t be a question on who is going to be playing. But that’s a positive for us, too. When you put yourself in Peyton’s shoes, him knowing and preparing. He’s had that a couple of times, but for the most part, he’s needed to be ready in case.”

Despite the back-and-forth at quarterback, IU has been able to maintain the No. 1 passing offense in the Big Ten because Ramsey, last year’s starter, bided his time and stayed prepared for whenever his number would be called. And that turned out to be quite often.

Completing a career-high 72 percent of his passes, Ramsey has thrown for 1,302 yards and nine touchdowns to just three interceptions. He’s not only been more efficient in DeBoer’s offense but also less prone to negative plays.

As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Ramsey was 8-of-17 for 78 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 45-14 loss in Happy Valley. Ramsey is a better quarterback than two years ago, and even last year.

With two weeks to prepare for Penn State, the Hoosiers will hope Ramsey is that much more locked-in. The Nittany Lions’ loss to Minnesota may have also educated the Hoosiers on what they can exploit.

“As the week goes on we’ll continue to scheme up some things. Minnesota had a good scheme, they did a lot of good things which allowed them to open up passing lanes,” Ramsey said. “But as the week goes on we’ll continue to get our game plan together and take our shots, for sure.”

In a 31-26 win over Penn State, Minnesota was also able to pick off Clifford three times.

While Clifford was able to throw for 340 yards and a score, defensive coordinator Kane Wommack hopes watching the Lions in a close game revealed some things.

“For me as a defensive coordinator, I always want to know what is the true personality of their offensive mind and their offensive staff,” Wommack said. “Where does the quarterback want to go with the ball? When the game is on the line, you get a very accurate picture of who they are and what they want to be.”

PSU’s K.J. Hamler, the 5-9 junior, has hauled in 44 passes for 739 yards and eight touchdowns. His speed is an obvious concern. But Wommack seemed just as focused Monday on sophomore tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has seven touchdown grabs.

At 6-5, 256 pounds, Freiermuth is a load.

“I think he’s an NFL tight end that creates one-on-one matchups,” Wommack said. “He can body people up. They find ways to get him the ball. They know he’s a feature player and they use him as such.”

Claiming another win for Ramsey in a battle of Cincy-area quarterbacks will be tough. But the Hoosiers are crafting a plan to try.

IU coach Tom Allen knows it will be a challenge.

“I feel like the Clifford kid is just a really, really tough competitor,” Allen said. “That’s where he’s so much like (Trace) McSorley, who was such a tough kid, competitor, always found ways, can beat you with his legs, arm.

“He’s a really good football player. Probably didn’t play his best game of his season last week, but those things happen. I’m sure he’ll bounce back.”


  1. I like Ramsey in this one. Does he have enough help around him? PR (after watching other big ten QBs) compares favorably and PR is not the same qb as he was last 2 years especially under this year’s OC.
    If OC continues his success Glass could put a clause in his contract that he would be up for next IU head coach upon when/if departure through retirement or going pro or other reason from T.A. Not sure how this works out age wise but just in case the opportunity ever arises. At least it would make OC feel he has permanent home.

  2. Maybe, maybe not. But think of something that will keep him interested and hungry for IUFB. He has made the needed difference in 2k19.

  3. This will be an interesting side to the PSU game, having Ramsey and Clifford at QB creates a story about competing against each other again. IU and PSU have similar offensive and defensive stats in the B1G. Purdue came out the second half and played up to PSU’s level, that game and several others make me wonder how good PSU is.

  4. there’s no way DeBoer or Tom Allen would agree to have such a clause when they themselves said they are talking extension with him and you’re saying that like Tom Allen is 75 yrs old you have to be able to create a stable of assistants that if you want the system to stay the same you keep it intact and hire from within

  5. DeBoer’s contract was proactive in minimizing the risk of losing him for a few years. Given his salary and incentives, schools interested in hiring him to be their head coach are going to have to offer him a 7-digit salary, which eliminates many of the mid-major programs. And I don’t DeBoer would take a step back and become the head coach of an FCS program. So it is either going to be a very successful mid-major or a Power-five conference program that can afford to hire him.

    But assuming a school will eventually want to hire DeBoer, there is no way TA is going to try to stop him for pursuing his career goals. And for the money IU is paying DeBoer, TA would be able to find another high-quality OC if/when he leaves. And if TA is successful, he’s going to be IU’s head coach for too long a time for DeBoer to wait for him to retire. No, all we can do is enjoy DeBoer’s offense while we have him at IU.

  6. If IU is willing to pay TA and OC and whoever else they want to keep it could make for a content and happy long term family. Cost for stability of a program which has historically been an unstable loser. The qualifier is success in immediate future years. Get rid of the revolving door for head coaches and assistants. That is if the program success continues to grow and improve. IU needs to be innovative and creative. An assistant might be willing (there are examples) to stay long term in a happy situation and wait long term to be a head coach if it was happy, content, and rewarded enough. It also depends on what kind of desire an assistant coach has to be a head coach. Having said this IU success is not there yet for head coach and any assistant coaches but is definitely moving in a positive direction. Future years will tell a more accurate story. If IU football success continues then sweet deals for both, head and assistant coaches (those you want to keep) = program wins and stability.

  7. IU made it easy on Penn State and hard on themselves from coach going for it on fourth down running a play that had no chance, and bad decision fielding punt early in game that included silly penalties. Result Penn State scores 2 touchdowns. = Penn State win. IU competed and avoided any kind of blowout loss.

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