Jan. 3—Fifth-year senior Sean Clifford ended his Penn State career in style at the Rose Bowl, thanks in part to a couple of huge plays by underclassmen. Clifford passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns Monday as the Nittany Lions rolled past Utah, 35-21.

Freshman Nicholas Singleton, a freshman, busted loose on an 87-yard touchdown run to give Penn State a 21-14 lead it would never relinquish. Sophomore KeAndre Lambert-Smith pulled in an 88-yard TD pass from Clifford to give the Lions some breathing room.

Clifford endured calls from many Penn State fans this season for the Lions to bench him in favor of touted freshman Drew Allar. But the senior gets to go out on a high note.

The Rose Bowl is more than just a game. Mike Jensen reports on the atmosphere in Pasadena.

— Jim Swan, Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport, sports.daily@inquirer.com.

❓ Should Jalen Hurts play on Sunday even if he is not 100 percent recovered from his injury? Email us back for a chance to be featured in the newsletter.

Once more, with feeling

Surely, many Eagles fans thought that the Week 18 game against the New York Giants would be meaningless. Who knew that it would be mostly meaningless for the Giants, who cannot improve on their playoff standing?

But this is where we stand. It is plenty meaningful for the Eagles, who will get their third chance to seize the NFC's top seed and a first-round playoff bye. Jeff McLane notes that Gardner Minshew's magic ran out in the disappointing loss to the Saints. Signs seem to indicate that Jalen Hurts will return after missing two games with a sprained shoulder.

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said that Hurts was "close" to playing Sunday against the New Orleans Saints and that the quarterback's sprained right shoulder is improving.

Sirianni took the blame for the Eagles' struggles on offense against the Saints.

The Eagles have one more chance to prove they're as good as they think they are, Mike Sielski writes.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field and appeared to be getting CPR before being driven off the field in an ambulance during Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The game was postponed.

Willie Green's homecoming

New Orleans Pelicans coach Willie Green has a lot of ties to Philly. He played his first seven NBA seasons with the Sixers and later was coached by Doc Rivers, who now stands on the sidelines at the Wells Fargo Center.

So when his Pelicans played against the 76ers on Monday, memories started to flood back. ""This is where I was fortunate and blessed to get my start. What a start. Brotherly Love. Big-time sports town."

The Sixers extended their home winning streak to a league-best 10 games by beating the New Orleans Pelicans, 120-111.

Next: The Sixers face the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center (NBCSP).

Hockey made in California

Cam York has established himself as one of the Flyers' best puck-moving defensemen, but he first learned how to move his feet as a member of the Anaheim Jr. Ducks minor hockey team. On Monday, he got a chance to play in his hometown.

For the first time, the Flyers have swept all three California teams on one trip.

Next: The Flyers host the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday at 7 p.m. (NBCSP).

Kicking around in 2023

How can 2023 top the drama of the Union's 2022 season and that incredibly intense MLS Cup final? Well, how about the Union battling against World Cup winner Lionel Messi playing for Julián Carranza's old team, Inter Miami?

Will it happen? Who knows? But it's one of the things that could happen for soccer in 2023. Check out what other items concerning the USWNT, USMNT and more that Inquirer soccer scribes Jonathan Tannenwald and Andrea Canales debate.

Worth a look

Hall of Fame ref: Art McNally, a native Philadelphian who became the first official to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Sunday at age 97.

Trivia Tuesday

Before Nick Foles' postseason success in 2018 and '19, who was the last Eagles quarterback to earn a postseason victory? First with the correct answer to sports.daily@inquirer.com will be featured in the newsletter.

A) Jeff Garcia

B) Donovan McNabb

C) Rodney Peete

D) Michael Vick

What you're saying about the Eagles

We asked you: In your view, did the Eagles call the right plays for Minshew's skill set? Among your responses:

Unfortunately there were too many instances where a play was rushed or totally called wrong. The offensive coordinator did absolutely nothing to assist with an appropriate play call. And, why did #26 disappear when needed? — Joseph R.

Well, there is a lot of bad football on both sides for the Eagles from last week to this week. The play calling was not even close to the Dallas game. — Jack K.

Of course the right plays were not called. When the other team is number two against the pass but number 27 against the run, why would you start off passing and then keep it up when you keep going three-and-out? And your QB doesn't seem to find the top three receivers. — Dan G.

Hell no! The first 3 plays should have been their best running plays! Absurd to be throwing right away. They never got a rhythm going and Sanders had 2(!) rushes in the first half? Absurd ... Minshew still may have lost it for them, but my goodness, give our runners a chance. — Linda D.

The Eagles offensive coaching staff showed no creative thinking, or for that matter realistic thinking, in not tweaking the game plan considering the strengths/weaknesses of Minshew. A QB sneak on 4th down! Not running Sanders more (he averages 5 yards per carry for the season). Look past the mumbo jumbo coach speak. That is the same old story about the game plan. This is a pass-happy group. I think Hurts had masked the deficiencies in the play calling by dynamically changing plays and performing at a MVP level. If we lose in the playoffs and we did not run the ball, heads should roll. — Kevin M.

No. They should have pounded the Saints with the running game. — James S.

The Eagles needed to run the ball more often. The head coach and OC called a poor game and you could see the players' frustration with the called plays and the QB. Please be back, Jalen. — Tom G.

If Hurts has often made Sirianni and Steichen look better than they are — salvaging poor calls with corrective audibles and brilliantly impromptu runs — Minshew has exposed their often cavalier game planning and in the process been made to look worse than he is.

Regressing to last season's early reluctance to run the ball, Sirianni and Steichen have called bizarrely few running plays in the Eagles' last three pivotal games. This forced Hurts, in Chicago, to pass the ball in high winds or resort to his own runs on frozen turf, injuring his shoulder. It forced Minshew to pass the ball against Dallas with little relief from Miles Sanders. It forced him against New Orleans' third- ranked pass defense to pass the ball more than thirty times, with no preliminary running attack to soften up its formidable defense, opening the game with four successive — and frustratung! — three-and-outs. — Dianne P.

... Long controlled drives and time of possession would be critical to keep the defense fresh and add to the confidence of Minshew. I also thought that there would be a need to add some up tempo pacing just to keep the defense on edge and give energy to the Eagles offense. — Tom B.

There were few if any designated runs called during the first half and after 23 minutes of play or a quarter and a half we had 42 yards. It was a sheer travesty. Things looked up in the 2nd half as Miles Sanders began running the ball. — Myra R.

When Carson Wentz got injured, Doug Pederson adjusted the Eagles offense to help Nick Foles succeed. This rah-rah head coach called another bonehead game with 2 runs in the first half. Eagles fans could have called a better game plan. — Ronald H.

Fourth and a long yard for a first down near midfield, Eagles trailing the Saints 13-10. The Birds are very successful this year sneaking for the first down ... with Jalen Hurts behind center. While I yelled at the computer screen ... "don't try a sneak," sure enough Steichen with Sirianni's blessings dialed up a QB sneak with Garder Minshew in the game. That is not putting the 2nd-string QB in a position to succeed. Without Hurts' size and renowned leg strength, the play was doomed to fail. And it had as much to do with the failure to rally for a win as the pick-six Minshew tossed from his own 11-yard line later in the 4th quarter. — Pat S.

We compiled today's newsletter using reporting from EJ Smith, Jeff McLane, Keith Pompey, Olivia Reiner, Mike Jensen, Colin Beazley, Mike Sielski, Matt Breen, Melanie Heller, Andrea Canales, and Jonathan Tannenwald.

___

(c)2023 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.inquirer.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Latest videos