What a lousy weekend of football in Pennsylvania.
Penn State looked awful. The Steelers collapsed. Pitt lost a tough game late.
Only the Eagles, with slimeball backup quarterback Michael Vick playing his first game in the NFL in three years, were able to win. Where's the justice in that?
Mirror photo by J.D.?Cavrich
Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark walks off the field with his head down after Saturday’s loss.
The Nittany Lions turned in a dismal showing in Saturday's 21-10 loss to Iowa. If you missed the game, this in a nutshell is why PSU lost:
* Their offensive line was awful.
* Quarterback Daryll Clark was awful.
Penn State dropped to No. 13 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 15 in The Associated Press poll thanks to Saturday's 21-10 loss to Iowa.
The Nittany Lions had been No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in the polls.
Despite beating Penn State on the road, Iowa is No. 17 and ranked behind the Lions in the coaches poll. The Hawkeyes are 13th and ahead of PSU in the AP poll.
The Lions are No. 12 in the first Harris poll of the season, released Sunday. The Harris poll, coaches poll and the computer rankings are the three components used to determine the BCS standings. The AP poll is not used in the BCS formula.
* Running back Evan Royster had two awful plays.
* The special teams allowed one awful, game-changing play.
* And that awful non-conference schedule? It did not, regardless of what Joe Paterno says, prepare his team for what it would face against Iowa.
Where does the team go from here? Paterno addressed that with the players.
"Joe said it best: We either go in the tank or forget about it and keep playing," Clark told reporters after the game.
Here's a closer look at the rough spots Saturday:
The offensive line was, is and will continue to be the biggest concern for the Lions, and Iowa took advantage of it.
The Hawkeyes controlled the point of attack all night, not so much with a bunch of sacks - they had only two - but with steady pressure that collapsed the pocket and worried Clark.
"We just weren't clicking," left tackle Dennis Landolt said of the offense. "We just didn't play a clean enough game. We were not executing."
The coaches pulled starting right tackle DeOn'tae Pannell early. They turned to fifth-year senior Nerraw McCormack, a junior college transfer in his third year with the program. If it took McCormack this long to emerge as a factor on the line, how good can he really be?
Then there's center Stefen Wisniewski, whom Paterno called out on his radio show last week for needing to show better leadership. Wisniewski was an excellent guard last season but is still figuring things out at center.
It may seem like a small thing, but Wisniewski's snaps on shotgun plays frequently dip and make Clark have to do extra work just to catch the ball. Something that small can throw off the quarterback's rhythm.
Clark not composed
Clark did not look poised in the pocket. He seemed to panic when pressured, got the dreaded "happy feet" and lost concentration. Those things led to a bunch of poor throws.
Clark was just 12-of-32 for 198 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. His first throw went for a 79-yard score, and he completed his first five passes. He was a woeful 7-of-27 for 119 yards the rest of the game.
In two games against Iowa, Clark is 21-of-55 for 284 yards and four interceptions. Many people thought he had a concussion hangover in last year's meeting, but Saturday's rematch made it clear he just doesn't know how to figure out the Hawkeyes.
"It's a challenge for myself, but I can handle it," Clark, in a postgame interview videotaped by fightonstate.com, said of the regrouping process. "I have tons of people in my corner."
His parents were among those on hand after the game to offer words of encouragement.
"It's not like everyone abandoned me after the football game," Clark said. "Everyone came to me and was like, 'Look, you're our guy, you're going to have to keep your head up.'"
Royster kills rallies
Royster made two costly mistakes that killed back-to-back scoring drives in the fourth quarter as PSU was trying to come back.
Clark hit Royster on a dumpoff over the middle early in the quarter, and the ball went through his hands. It deflected to Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer for an interception, and the Hawkeyes went on to score a touchdown for an 18-10 lead.
"It could have been a little lower," Clark said of the pass. "He had to reach for it a little bit, and he missed it."
Royster came up to the quarterback on the sideline after the play.
"He was like, 'You know what, I should have had that,'" Clark said.
Royster made another mistake on the first play the next time the Lions got the ball. He broke free for an 18-yard gain inside the Hawkeye 20 but fumbled, and Iowa recovered.
"I went to him," Clark said. "I was just like, 'Hey man, just keep your head up, man. Things happen. You have to continue to play, no matter what.'"
Not special at all
Allowing a blocked punt with the game on the line is horrible. Penn State did that, and it was returned for a touchdown that gave Iowa an 11-10 lead with 12:21 to go.
The play shocked everyone at Beaver Stadium - there wasn't a whole lot of atmosphere anyway for the night game as drenched fans seemed bored - and the Hawkeyes' go-ahead score seemed to devastate PSU's entire team.
The Lions' kickoff coverage has been lousy, and place-kicker Collin Wagner is just 3-of-6 on field goals. These problems must be addressed.
Soft schedule hurts
A very telling statistic: Penn State is 2-8 in its last 10 Big Ten openers.
That means the team is consistently not prepared to play once it reaches the meat of the schedule.
The Lions didn't even look all that impressive in wins over Akron, Syracuse and Temple, so what happened Saturday night probably should not have been a big surprise.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.