Blue White Illustrated

November 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 5 of 67

6 N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 1 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M F or all but a select few within college football's elite tier, certain conces- sions typically must be made upon the first loss of the season. Your conference title hopes? Prob- ably on life support if you play within an uber-competitive division like the Big Ten East. Your College Football Playoff hopes? Pretty slim, unless you're Ala- bama or Clemson. The first loss, especially if it comes later on in the season, is the perfect time to evaluate one's own perceptions. What were we wrong about? Why isn't this team as good as we thought all season? It's the way things work in college football, where singular regular-season results totally alter the landscape in ways they don't in any other sport. But none of it applies to Penn State after the Nittany Lions lost their first game of the season on the road against Iowa, 23-20. That was not the kind of loss you draw conclusions from, and, by virtue of it being a crossover con- test against Big Ten West opposition, it doesn't totally shut the door to Penn State's goals in the way that a loss to Ohio State or Michigan might. This was a game that the Nittany Lions had firmly in their grasp until fifth-year senior quarterback Sean Clifford suf- fered an injury that sidelined him late in the first half. The Nittany Lions had a lead at the time, and their efforts to run out the clock with inexperienced redshirt sophomore backup Ta'Quan Roberson at quarterback fell just short. Iowa pulled ahead for good with 6 minutes, 26 sec- onds on the clock, thanks to a 44-yard touchdown from quarterback Spencer Petras to receiver Nico Ragaini. Very little of what we thought about Penn State changed with the result, outside of some conclusions that can be drawn from the difficult night Roberson had in Clifford's shoes. The Orange, N.J., native threw 20 passes, completing just seven for 34 yards. "I know everybody in that locker room has the right mindset despite the fact that we lost today," senior defensive end Arnold Ebiketie said after the game. "We're just going to stay together and continue to put in the work, and the re- sult will take care of itself." Perhaps it's easier to have that mindset when the best version of Penn State's team had yet to be beaten. Whether or not the Nittany Lions get to field that version of themselves again this season is a question that went unan- swered during their bye week. James Franklin is notoriously tight- lipped about injuries within his program and will typically only divulge informa- tion if he believes a player has suffered an injury that is season-ending. That's why he was willing to talk about senior defensive tackle PJ Mustipher, who is out for the year, but not Clifford. A quote from Franklin back in 2018 springs to mind, when he was asked about the status of quarterback Trace McSorley heading into a game against Michigan. "You ask questions that you know I'm not going to answer," Franklin said. "You only get so many questions, and you're asking me questions that I'm not go- ing to answer. So somebody send me an email and explain that to me. … If I tell you, 'Yeah, Trace can't do these things,' Michigan is watching it." Clifford is not the only injured player to keep tabs on in the weeks ahead. Se- nior running back John Lovett was in street clothes in the second half at Iowa, among other problems the Lions sus- tained. "Obviously, losing Cliff, PJ, Lovett, [Devyn] Ford and [Jonathan] Sutherland was significant in the game," Franklin said afterward. "But it's a next-man-up mentality, and we weren't ready for that on the road." If Clifford misses time and Roberson is the guy for Penn State going forward, it might be time to recalibrate expec- tations. Penn State still has to play at Ohio State and Michigan State, and will play host to Michigan, all of which were ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll heading into Week 7 action. Should that scenario play out, it will be a shame that a Penn State team that seemed special earlier this year won't be at full strength when it's tested by some of the Big Ten opponents that serve as measuring sticks for the rest of the con- ference every season. But, if Clifford can suit up for the Nit- tany Lions sooner rather than later, the Iowa loss changes very little. Everything is still on the table. ■ O P I N I O N DAVID ECKERT davidecker At Iowa, fifth-year senior quarterback Sean Clifford threw for 146 yards and rushed for 36 yards and a touchdown before having to leave the game in the second quarter with an injury. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL The More Things Change … JUDGMENT CALL

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue White Illustrated - November 2021