Of course, Penn State’s goal going into Saturday night was simple: beat Ohio State. The Nittany Lions weren’t able to do that though, so we’re in search of the positives to keep us
from quitting sports altogether, does anyone have any good novels? sane.
1. Sean Clifford Definitely Looked Healthier
Now granted, the interception and fumble were costly, but if you told Penn State fans heading into Saturday night that Clifford would throw 52 times for 361 yards and finish with a 67% completion percentage — I think every fan would have taken that. It wasn’t good enough to knock off the Buckeyes, but by and large, Clifford played well enough to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday. Other areas — see: running game — weren’t up to snuff, but questions about Clifford’s health moving forward shouldn’t be of too much concern.
He still wasn’t super nimble — his longest run went for just 10 yards — but it was night-and-day compared to what we saw against Illinois. With a strong schedule still ahead (more on that later), it feels good knowing that a near-100% Clifford seems realistic. Because it goes without saying, but the Nittany Lions will need Cliff at (or close to) his best.
2. Two Top 10 Wins Still Possible
Here at Koerbler PR, we give it to you straight, right? So we can say this: being 5-3 straight up stinks on ice. We can admit that. If you rewind to Penn State going up 17-3 over Iowa, and then fast forward to today, it certainly feels like the *worst* case scenario transpired.
Fortunately for Penn State, the season is not over. There are still plenty of opportunities for big wins: avenging the Maryland loss, slapping around Rutgers again, and the two Michigan schools which will provide the opportunity to finish the season with victories over two (at this point in time) Top 10 teams.
9-3 doesn’t have the same ring as 10-2, but winning out while picking up some notable victories over ranked teams? Hopefully, Penn State realizes the opportunity it has in November.
3. Young DTs Stepping Up
Going back to the Iowa game when PJ Mustipher went down, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the backup defensive tackles: D’Von Ellies and Coziah Izzard. The weird Illinois game aside which had less to do with the players and more to do with the lack of adjustments, but the Penn State rush defense had held up strong without big No. 97. Case in point: the Nittany Lions’ ability to limit TreVeyon Henderson. While Henderson did break loose for one big run — a 68-yard scamper — he was mostly held in check the rest of night, to the tune of just 3.1 yards per carry.
While it certainly a team effort in holding down Henderson, Izzard and Ellies serve a ton of credit for their play the last few weeks. While neither player is going to push for All-B1G honors the way Mustipher would have, Ellies and Izzard have been solid in relief. Izzard specifically is someone I’m really excited about for the future. His longer, leaner frame at 6-foot-3, 295 pounds to go along with his quickness — that’s the 3-Tech archetype Penn State has lacked at defensive tackle for the past couple seasons.
Not to get too deep in 2022 talk, but if Mustipher returns and the Hakeem Beamon situation gets figured out, Penn State could have a very serious two-deep with the rising play from Izzard and Ellies.