Last season, Penn State’s loss to Iowa pushed them to 0-5. The overwhelming feeling from me after that game: apathy. Fast forward a year, and Penn State’s loss to Iowa pushes them from 6-0 and the No. 2 ranking to 5-1, the No. 7 ranking, and the whole season up in the air with the injury to (amongst others) Sean Clifford. Oh, apathy, I yearn for you.
1. Elite Iowa Defense
I — like the rest of the media — was just in awe of how dominant the Iowa defense was yesterday. They held Penn State to just three points and 79 total yards on Saturday. I mean, I knew the Iowa defense was good heading into the matchup, but that was a masterclass of elite defense. Everyone is quick to point out that Georgia’s defense is the best in the country, but I don’t know — Iowa is on another level. Is it possible to give the Heisman to an entire side of the ball? Because if we can, I would have Iowa’s defense No. 1 on my ballot.
Note: We are discounting Sean Clifford’s five possessions, which led to three scoring drives good for 17 points, and 208 total yards through the first 17 minutes of the game. Them getting gashed by Clifford, and looking like they were well on their way to giving up 40+ points, will not be part of this discussion when talking about Iowa’s defense. Thank you.
2. Penn State Faking Injuries
If you remember, I said that here at Koerbler PR the most important ability is accountability. When Penn State messes up, we will address it head on. So people might not like to hear this, but it was abundantly clear that Penn State was faking injuries on Saturday. Let’s take a look at each injury...
- PJ Mustipher: Funny enough, this is probably the most blatantly obvious one. Team captain, space-eating 1-Tech, maybe the most consistent player on the defense — if you can have him fake an injury on the first drive and keep him out the rest of the game, you have to do that. The crutches on the sideline were a nice touch, too.
- Jaquan Brisker: Brisker definitely has not battled a shoulder injury this entire season. Nope, this was a plan concocted up just for Iowa.
- D’Von Ellies: Ellies, who came in for fellow injury-faker Mustipher, went down in the 2nd quarter when Penn State was in the red zone. With him off the field, the Nittany Lions turned to third-string defensive tackle Fred Hansard, who has played 18 snaps this year. Two plays later: touchdown Iowa. Ellies missed the next series, but later returned with his left arm wrapped.
- Jonathan Sutherland: Another team captain, Sutherland went down with 5:20 minutes left in the second quarter. He never returned, likely because of a concussion.
- Arnold Ebiketie: With PJ Mustipher out and your offense completely unable to move the ball, Penn State made the savvy decision to have Ebiketie and his 3.5-TFLs taken off the field with the margin of error being razor thin.
Proof is in the pudding, folks — especially when you consider that Iowa runs a hurry-up, no huddle offense. Really tough to slow those guys down.
3. Backup QBs
Alright, let’s tackle some lingering questions here.
- Should Roberson have looked that bad on Saturday? No, a redshirt sophomore QB who has been with the program for three years should look a little more competent. That falls on Roberson (an aside: he spoke with reporters after the game — respect to him for not shying away) and the Penn State coaching staff.
- I mean, how did Penn State go into the season with Roberson as the backup if they likely knew he wouldn’t be ready? Well, they certainly didn’t try to stand pat. They were active in the transfer portal, most notably being a finalist for TJ Finley who ended up opting to stay in the SEC. There was also JUCO QB Michael Hiers who worked out for the staff in June, and had he been offered, would have enrolled immediately at Penn State. So it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
- As far as ideal scenarios where Roberson would have to play, how would you rate on the road at Iowa? Uh, not very high. Granted, there’s never a “good” spot to put the backup QB into when an injury is the reason, but on the road against Iowa is at the very, very bottom of the list. There is no preparing for that.
- Will Roberson look better against Illinois? Yes, he will — for a multitude of reasons. Two full weeks of reps with the 1s to get him ready. Playing in the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium. Going against Illinois instead of Iowa. I’m not saying Roberson is going to come out and put up 18/24 for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns, but a better performance is all but assured.
- Christian Veilleux can’t be that bad too? Veilleux has arm talent, but he was viewed as a raw QB prospect to begin with, and that was only expounded with the fact he didn’t even have a senior football season. I know Roberson wasn’t very good, but there was a reason he was QB2 and not QB3.
College football is ever-changing, and included in that is the fact that quarterbacks are moving around more than ever. Penn State lost Will Levis and Micah Bowens this offseason, and ended up not being able to replace them — they paid dearly for that on Saturday. While even some of the most elite programs struggle with QB depth, the loss to Iowa is a reminder how just how pivotal it is to keep that room as stacked as possible. Reinforcements are coming with the 2022 class (Save_Us.D14A), but that won’t help the Nittany Lions the next seven weeks.