As many expected, Penn State’s Week 6 meeting with No. 3 Iowa came down to wire.
While the Nittany Lions were able to hold a lead into the fourth quarter, the disastrous play of backup quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson and Penn State’s offense all but cost the blue and white a win.
Penn State’s defense looked as strong as ever, despite PJ Mustipher’s first-half injury, sidelining him for the rest of regulation.
At points, the Nittany Lions looked like a legitimate title contender, while at others they looked like the worst team in the conference.
Whatever they are, James Franklin and his staff would like to figure that out prior to Week 7.
Here are the grades for each of Penn State’s groups through its 23-20 loss at Iowa.
Offense: F | Seth Engle
Where to begin? Penn State entered its matchup with Iowa firing against one of the best defenses in the country, putting up 17 points halfway through the second quarter.
Then, disaster struck for the Nittany Lions with starting quarterback Sean Clifford entering the locker room with an apparent right arm injury.
After Clifford’s exit, backup Ta’Quan Roberson stepped in to get the job done in Penn State’s toughest game of the season thus far.
To put things simply, he and the rest of the offense failed.
Receivers got open, passes weren’t completed. The offensive line struggled to create holes for running backs, yards on the ground weren’t picked up.
But what hurt the offense most? False start penalties.
Since Roberson entered the game in the second quarter, Penn State racked up eight false start penalties.
Whether the fault is Roberson’s, the offensive line’s or the coaching staff’s, eight false starts cannot happen against any team in the country, regardless of ranking.
Without Clifford, the Penn State offense virtually fell apart on all cylinders. Without a doubt this side of the ball, failed its mission.
Defense: A | Max Ralph
Take one play out of this game, and Penn State’s defense was nearly flawless. It gave up a lot of ground in the run game, but it lost its biggest leader in PJ Mustipher early in the game.
The secondary played lights out for nearly the entire game with one brutal mistake leading to the Iowa touchdown that clinched it.
You can’t ask for 60 minutes of flawless football from your defense when the offense can’t stay on the field for more than three plays. The Nittany Lions did everything they could with what they were given on the defensive side of the ball.
They made Spencer Petras uncomfortable all day, getting pressure after pressure and forcing errant throws consistently.
The linebacking corps had a breakout performance, led by strong displays from Ellis Brooks and Curtis Jacobs.
The defense played a great game, and the woeful offense took away from that.
Special teams: B+ | Alexis Yoder
Jordan Stout was called upon more than usual in the second half against Iowa when the offense failed to get into the red zone.
The redshirt senior punter found himself kicking out of his own endzone multiple times throughout the contest against Iowa, doing everything he could to not allow the opposition to have good field position.
Stout nailed both of his field goal attempts and didn’t allow a kickoff return.
The only thing keeping this grade from an A would be the punt out of bounds in the second half.
Other than that, the special teams did its job and kept Penn State in the game when the offense couldn’t find rhythm during the final 30 minutes of play.
Coaching: D | Justin Morganstein
Penn State looked to be in control of this game early on in Iowa City, until injuries started to pile up for the Nittany Lions.
One of those injuries was to starting quarterback Sean Clifford which proved to be incredibly costly for multiple reasons.
Mainly that the backup QB looked unprepared and the offensive line seemed to have communication issues all afternoon.
There were eight false start penalties and the frustration started to show with a lack of leadership on the field.
After Clifford’s injury the offense scored just three points and the defense could not hold long enough to keep its grasp of the lead..
Tough circumstances no doubt, but the preparation for the atmosphere and injuries certainly should have been better.
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