Penn State Depth Chart and Snap Counts (Week 6): Clifford, Mustipher Injuries Throw Rotation Into Flux

By Nick Polak on October 12, 2021 at 8:00 am
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, left, talks with Penn State quarterback Ta'Quan Roberson (2) as he warms up before the second half during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Iowa, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa beat Penn State, 23-20.
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen
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Penn State was dealt its first loss of the season at the hands of the Hawkeyes after losing starting quarterback Sean Clifford midway through the second quarter to injury. He would not return the rest of the day, and the Lions were not able to move the ball enough to hold onto the lead he departed with.

Not quite as impactful from a personnel standpoint, but equally as important in terms of talent lost, was the injury picked up by defensive tackle PJ Mustipher during the first defensive series of the game. Given how little Penn State has rotated in its bigger games so far in 2021, both of these were major factors in the loss in Iowa City.

Offense (81 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team / Reserves
QB Ta'Quan Roberson (47) Sean Clifford (34)  
RB Noah Cain (46) Keyvone Lee (34) Devyn Ford (6)
WR Jahan Dotson (80) Jaden Dottin (1)  
WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith (43) Cam Sullivan-Brown (35)  
WR Parker Washington (53)    
TE Brenton Strange (60) Theo Johnson (45) Tyler Warren (2)
LT Rasheed Walker (81)    
LG Eric Wilson (73) Bryce Effner (8)  
C Mike Miranda (81)    
RG Juice Scruggs (81)    
RT Caedan Wallace (81)    
  • Roberson Steps In: When it was deemed Clifford would be unavailable for the rest of the game, there was little question who would take over. Though he struggled to command his offense with a myriad of false start penalties souring his day, Roberson probably deserved a better fate in this one. He would be the first to tell you that he needs to be better, but his receivers didn't provide him much help with four dropped passes after he entered the game. Though his day should have gone better, Penn State is in trouble without Clifford.
  • Sullivan-Brown, Dottin Appear as Backups: As per usual to this point, Cam Sullivan-Brown was the go-to choice when Lambert-Smith was off of the field, though this time around that was more due to an injury early on in this one. The only other receiver aside from the starting three to see the field was redshirt freshman Jaden Dottin, who subbed in for Jahan Doston on the last play of the first quarter after Dotson ran a route that took him down the sideline on a throwaway.
  • Wilson Dominates Snaps, Effner Appears Briefly: The mostly-Eric-Wilson-but-a-little-Bryce-Effner plan continued at left guard, though the timing was a bit odd. Effner came into the game on the same series that Roberson did, and while Effner wasn't the cause of any false starts, it seemed like a time when stability with Wilson would have been preferred.

Defense (78 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team / Reserves
DE Arnold Ebikete (68) Smith Vilbert (6)  
DT D'von Ellies (45) Coziah Izzard (35) PJ Mustipher (5)
DT Derrick Tangelo (64) Fred Hansard (2) Amin Vanover (1)
DE Jesse Luketa (46) Nick Tarburton (38) Amin Vanover (19)
WLB Brandon Smith (76) Charlie Katshir (3)  
MLB Ellis Brooks (78)    
SLB Curtis Jacobs (58)    
CB Joey Porter Jr. (76) Daequan Hardy (19)  
S Ji'Ayir Brown (74) Jonathan Sutherland (6)  
S Jaquan Brisker (76) Keaton Ellis (2)  
CB Tariq Castro-Field (72) Johnny Dixon (8)  
  • Mutsipher Goes Down, Ellies and Izzard Fill In: In the aftermath of PJ Mustipher's injury (no word on what exactly that injury is yet, though he was spotted on crutches during the game), D'von Ellies and Coziah Izzard stepped up to replace the star defensive tackle. Neither one went on to have a monumental day, but neither looked out of place either. It would have been nice to have Mustipher's dominating presence in the middle throughout the game, but the defense was able to continue to mostly shut down the Hawkeyes anyway. Kudos to these two, as well as Derrick Tangelo who stepped up and played a large number of snaps, for doing what they could to replicate Mustipher's impact.
  • Mix and Match at Defensive End: Though the starting pair on Saturday was Arnold Ebiketie and Nick Tarburton, the Lions weren't shy about giving every combination a fair shake, as we saw every possible combination of Ebiketie, Tarburton, Jesse Luketa, and Smith Vilbert in this one. That flexibility among this group is definitely a plus, though Ebiketie and Luketa were still the leaders in snaps, as usual.
  • Business Mostly as Usual in the Secondary: We saw Johnny Dixon once again get the call as the first backup ahead of Kalen King who did not appear in the game on defense. Dixon was out there for eight consecutive defensive snaps, first replacing Joey Porter Jr. to end a drive, and then stepping in for Tariq Castro-Fields at the start of the next one. Keaton Ellis stepped in for Brisker when the latter left the field due to injury, and Sutherland came in both for Ji'Ayir Brown and as a third safety twice on third down before leaving due to injury himself.
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