Penn State Football’s Post-Iowa Report Card
Well, here we go again.
For the first time in program history, Penn State football is 0-5 to start the season. Saturday’s loss to Iowa was ugly all around, as the offense continued to turn the ball over and the defense looked sloppy.
And, once again, Penn State’s position grades aren’t pretty.
Penn State ended up benching its starting quarterback in the middle of the game. Sean Clifford came in for Will Levis early in the second half, and it seemed like a good decision on the first two drives. After the game, Franklin said Levis’s two fumbles were the reason for the quarterback swap.
Clifford threw two touchdowns on just two passes, while Levis couldn’t find a receiver in the end zone the entire first half. But Clifford’s honeymoon period quickly ended when he threw two interceptions on the next three drives.
Clifford was able to provide a spark through the air while Levis once again led Penn State’s rushing attack with 35 yards on 15 attempts. The turnover issues and general lack of offense earn the Nittany Lions’ a below-average grade.
Running Backs: D+
It’s unclear if the running backs’ poor performance was necessarily their fault, but man! They could not get anything going. Devyn Ford left the game after just the first drive, leaving Penn State down to its fourth and fifth-string backs.
The offensive line certainly did not help, but Penn State’s rushers only averaged 1.8 yards on 35 attempts. When you take out Levis and Clifford’s attempts, the team posted only 1.1 yards per carry. Keyvone Lee’s short touchdown and solid receiving performance were the only bright spots.
Wide Receivers: A-
It’s the same story every week. Jahan Dotson continued a historic season, hauling in eight passes for 139 yards and a score.
Parker Washington, a true freshman, caught two passes for 31 yards, while Daniel George caught his one target for just four yards. Dotson and Washington led the way for the Nittany Lions’ all-purpose yards.
Washington’s continued development and another great game from Dotson earned Penn State’s wideouts the best grade out of any position group.
Tight Ends: B+
Losing one of the best tight ends in the nation in Pat Freiermuth is no easy task, but Penn State’s backups did a great job of filling his shoes. Brenton Strange, a redshirt freshman, showed the future of the Nittany Lions’ tight end room is in good hands.
Strange caught three passes on three targets for 38 yards and a big-time touchdown. His gritty score sparked the beginning of a comeback effort for Penn State.
True freshman Theo Johnson also finally got involved against Iowa, catching two passes for 14 yards. The tight ends’ performance showed positive signs for the future.
Offensive Line: D
Penn State’s offensive line had a pretty tough day. The big men weren’t able to create holes for any of the Nittany Lions’ running backs, who only picked up 16 total yards on the day. Clifford and Levis also rushed 21 times, which is partly due to their play style and partly due to protection breakdown.
Iowa sacked the quarterback five times, made 10 tackles-for-loss, and recorded one quarterback hurry and three forced fumbles. While some of this may be on the quarterbacks, it was clear on Saturday that the line was not giving Clifford or Levis enough time.
James Franklin has been experimenting with different lineups all year, and things just aren’t clicking.
Defensive Line: C+
Penn State’s defensive line had a bit of a bounce-back game against Iowa but still did not do enough to keep the Nittany Lions in the game. A lack of pressure on Spencer Petras and general domination in the run game left Penn State out to dry.
Shaka Toney, however, had a big game. His two sacks, three tackles-for-loss, and forced fumble were momentum-changing for Penn State at points. Jayson Oweh had six tackles on the day as well while Adisa Isaac also contributed a sack and tackle-for-loss.
Penn State’s defense was put in tough positions by offensive turnovers, and it did a decent job of keeping things competitive. The line struggled but was definitely the brightest spot.
Saturday was one of those days you said, “Man, I really wish Micah Parsons was still here.” Nonetheless, Penn State’s remaining linebackers were mostly underwhelming.
Zero of the three starters recorded a tackle-for-loss or sack, while only combining for 13 total tackles on the day. Jesse Luketa led the way for the linebacker group with seven total tackles, but he notably missed a lot of tackles. Poor tackling continues to be a theme for this crew.
Brandon Smith recorded four tackles on the day and looked solid, which bodes well for the future. True freshman Curtis Jacobs came in for a series or two while Smith was hurt, where he recorded two tackles of his own. The future may be bright, but the performance is lacking right now.
Iowa didn’t necessarily have a crazy day through the air, but Penn State’s secondary was pretty unimpressive. Multiple interceptions were dropped and the cornerbacks and safeties demonstrated a general lack of playmaking ability.
Open-field tackling continues to be an issue for the secondary, which is an issue when Penn State continues to give up explosive plays. The Nittany Lions have lost the turnover battle every game so far this season.
Lamont Wade and Jaquan Brisker led the way in tackling, but that’s hardly anything to call home about, especially when they’re usually the ones trying to clean up broken plays.
Special Teams: C+
Penn State’s special teams has *mostly* been a bright spot all season, but the crew didn’t do much against Iowa. No field goals were attempted and Jake Pinegar missed an extra point. Penn State did convert a two-point attempt.
Jordan Stout averaged a solid 45.2 yards per punt and Dotson took two of Iowa’s punts out for a total of 32 yards. Stout was also 3/4 on touchbacks, which is just what you would expect from him. The Nittany Lions also forced an Iowa miss from 50 yards out.
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The internet is a very ~interesting~ place to put it lightly.
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