Iowa 23, Penn State 20: Banged Up Nittany Lions Suffer First Loss of Season

By Joel Neuschwander on October 9, 2021 at 8:08 pm
Oct 9, 2021; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Ta'Quan Roberson (2) controls the offense against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second quarter at Kinnick Stadium.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

With its starting quarterback out of the picture in the second half, Penn State needed to dig deep against Iowa Saturday.

For a while, the Nittany Lions did. But the defense couldn't hold on forever.

We'll have much more on this game in the next few days, but for now, here are the three biggest takeaways from Penn State's 23-20 loss to the Hawkeyes.

Clifford out, Roberson in

Turning to an unproven backup is never an ideal situation. Turning to an unproven backup in a top-five matchup on the road with your team in a one-score game? That's pretty much a nightmare.

Ready or not, it was TaQuan Roberson's time to shine against the Hawkeyes. His first series was set back by about 75 false starts, but he did lead a pretty nice drive for a field goal his next time out. From there, the wheels came off.

It's no secret that Penn State needs a healthy Clifford if it wants to keep its playoff aspirations in play. What's unknown is the severity of his injury. The Nittany Lions have a bye and a date with Illinois next on the docket.

lack of discipline hurts Nittany Lions

The actual number of Penn State false starts was eight — still an alarming figure regardless of how loud the Iowa crowd was.

The Nittany Lions' offense wasn't moving the ball even without its untimely penalties, but they really couldn't get out of their own way.

injuries put dent in penn state's hopes 

Clifford's status is to be determined. The same can be said of PJ Mustipher, whose loss was felt in a big way on the defensive line.

Penn State also still can't seem to find an identity on the ground – Noah Cain doesn't look anywhere near his 2019 self, and Roberson can't win a game on his own.

Everything is still on the table for this team, but with so much up in the air, the once optimistic outlook on the Nittany Lions' 2021 campaign has soured.

Penn State now heads into its bye week with questions abound, but has a chance to regroup, and perhaps most importantly, hopefully get healthy.