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Hawkeye Fans Leave Mark On Penn State-Iowa

As thousands of people dressed in black and yellow stormed Kinnick Stadium Saturday night, Penn State football linebacker Ellis Brooks stood at the tunnel and stared back at the field.

No. 3 Iowa had just worn down No. 4 Penn State to secure a 23-20 win in a classic Big Ten matchup. Brooks led the way for the Nittany Lions with 14 tackles, but his effort wasn’t enough. Heartbroken, he had to watch the Hawkeye faithful rejoice instead.

“I believe in just taking moments in fully, and that includes positive and negative,” Brooks said after the game. “I just wanted to…use that as motivation and get better moving forward.”

When you call Beaver Stadium home, crowd noise at away games typically doesn’t play a big factor. But between boos, heckles, mistimed snap counts, and a stormed field, the Nittany Lions were fully feeling the effects of the 69,250 people in Kinnick Stadium.

Penn State caught a bit of the injury bug Saturday afternoon, too. Most notably, captains Sean Clifford, Jonathan Sutherland, and PJ Mustipher went down and didn’t return.

The Nittany Lions were riddled by small, here-and-there injuries as well. Guys like Arnold Ebiketie and Jaquan Brisker were shaken up throughout the game, and they were often met with boos from Iowa’s fans. Head coach James Franklin took particular issue with this after the game.

“I do have a little bit of a hard time with our players getting hurt and the fans, the coaches, and the staff booing our players,” Franklin said. “I don’t think it’s the right thing for college football.”

Along with Franklin, Penn State fans were quick to take issue with the boos raining down from Kinnick Stadium. However, most of the players brushed it off postgame. Maybe this was a product of Penn State’s strategic communications team — quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson said it was “above his paygrade” –, or maybe they just didn’t care.

Specialist Jordan Stout chalked it up to fans just being passionate. Brooks agreed, but he said it was a “weird feeling” to see his potentially injured teammates being booed. Ebiketie said he wasn’t faking his injury, and added that fans “are going to do what they have to do to support the team.”

Kinnick Stadium is unique in the fact that fans are right on top of the players on the sideline. The benches basically back up to the stands and, as you could imagine, it’s louder because of that.

The environment had an impact on the game itself as well. Penn State suffered eight false start penalties from the time Roberson came in, all within its own 25-yard line. Franklin said it was just a matter of Roberson — a redshirt sophomore — not being loud enough.

“We didn’t have an issue with crowd noise until we lost Sean [Clifford]…It’s a tough environment. Their entire stadium is standing up and pouring their energy into the players on the field, and it makes an impact…” Franklin said. “[Ta’Quan]’s not as loud as Sean.”

Roberson was one of Penn State’s players to speak to the media after the game. Standing on the turf along the Nittany Lions’ sideline, he said that it was a tough environment and he feels a sense of responsibility for the loss. Undoubtedly, it was a tough spot for the New Jersey native to take his first meaningful snaps.

No one knows how long Clifford will be out for, but the snap count and cadence is the first thing Penn State needs to clean up. Like after most games, a common theme among the players was that they need to continue improving. Stout said goals like a Big Ten Championship or College Football Playoff appearance are still in play.

The silver lining with these crowd noise issues is the Nittany Lions have their first bye coming up next week and a date with Illinois (2-5) the week after that. If Penn State, in fact, will be without Clifford for an extended period of time, it will have ample time to try and get Roberson prepared for the heart of the schedule.

“We’re a family,” Roberson said. “No matter what, everyone has each other’s back, and they have my back.”

A lack of preparation for the backup quarterback just didn’t gel well with an avalanche of sound from Kinnick Stadium. Stout said the environment compared to a typical game at Beaver Stadium, but it’s obviously much different when the fans are screaming at you instead of for you.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected]

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