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‘We’re Coming Back Stronger’: Penn State Football Focused On Improvement After Loss To Iowa

Penn State football lost its first game of the season Saturday at Kinnick Stadium by dropping a tough one to Iowa 23-20.

After jumping out to a 17-3 lead and appearing to be in full control, the Nittany Lions lost quarterback Sean Clifford to an injury, prompting a Hawkeye comeback to give Penn State a loss just before its bye week.

Redshirt sophomore Ta’Quan Roberson came in at quarterback once Clifford departed for what were his first significant snaps in college football. Unfortunately for Roberson and Penn State, the signal-caller didn’t get the results he would’ve hoped for and completed just 33% of his passes for 35 yards and two interceptions.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to get on Roberson too much for the underwhelming performance. He was thrown in there against one of the best defenses in the country and has never had any prior comparable in-game reps. He was pretty much thrown to the wolves, and it showed.

After the game, Roberson faced the media and spoke about keeping a 1-0 mentality and growing within the locker room.

“I know my teammates got my back, I got their back,” Roberson said. “Just focused on next week.”

“We’re a family, so no matter what, everyone has each other’s back,” Roberson continued. “They have my back.”

One of the bright spots from Saturday’s loss was kicker/punter Jordan Stout. The specialist averaged 50.4 yards across five punts, and he drilled both of his field-goal attempts (44, 32 yards) while also booting a touchback every time he kicked off. He simply does it all.

Understandably, some of the players were down in the dumps after the tough loss. Heck, it’s pretty normal to have the wind taken out of your sails after you watch the crowd storm the field after you lose a hard-fought game.

As one of the veterans on the team, Stout made sure to go around and let his teammates know this isn’t the end of the world.

“I was one of the guys going around like, ‘Hey guys, we lost, but don’t forget the goals. Don’t forget what we’re pushing for. We want a national championship, Big Ten championship. This doesn’t matter. We’re coming back stronger,'” Stout said.

Stud defensive end Arnold Ebiketie echoed what Stout said about the goals the team has. The goals are still within reach, and the loss is just a small obstacle in the way.

“All of our goals are still in front of us,” Ebiketie said. “I mean, like I said, it’s just a bump in the road. We can’t use that and put our heads down. We just gotta keep our head up. I mean, we came out here, did a great job. They came out victorious by the end of the day. We got to get back to work.”

Ebiketie sure made his presence felt in Iowa’s backfield throughout the game. He totaled nine tackles, 3.5 for a loss, and one sack. Coming in as a transfer from Temple this past offseason, “AK” has not only emerged as one of Penn State’s most important defensive players but also a leader his teammates look up to.

The defensive end is confident the Nittany Lions will adjust and come back stronger after the bye week.

“We know what we’re capable of doing,” Ebiketie said. “We know that if we fix the little things and come back, we’re going to be ready to take on any opponent we have next on our schedule.”

Stout says this experience will make the Nittany Lions better in the future. Additionally, the next two weeks of practice will center around getting better in every aspect.

“We have to go into next week and work twice as hard, which is tough,” Stout said. “You know, we just lost. I feel like we need to go back in, do more in the weight room, do more re-gen, do more everything, and we’re going to be much better coming out of this. This is going to make us a better football team.”

Linebacker Ellis Brooks, who led Brent Pry’s defense with 14 tackles on Saturday, shared some of Stout’s thoughts about the upcoming bye week. It’s clear focusing on getting better is the name of the game right now for Penn State football.

“I think we should just focus on what we need to do to get better,” Brooks said. “Obviously, we’re going to have coaching points coming out of this game, a lot of film study, self-scouting ourselves. So, I think those are the main things we can really do to try to attack this bye week and just make sure we get better. I feel like that’s our only goal right now.”

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a junior majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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