Loss of Sean Clifford a Crushing Blow in Penn State’s Loss to Iowa

Story posted October 9, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Zech Lambert

Injuries piled up for Penn State during its first loss of the season against Iowa Saturday night — none more prominent than the injury to starting quarterback Sean Clifford.

Clifford went down in the second quarter after a hard hit by Iowa’s Jack Campbell and never returned, giving way to backup quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson for the remainder of the contest.

Roberson never settled in and struggled moving the ball with the exception of one drive.

However, it was more than just Clifford who went down for the blue and white Saturday evening.

At certain points, the Nittany Lions saw the likes of KeAndre Lambert-Smith, PJ Mustipher, Jaquan Brisker, Jonathan Southerland, John Lovett and Arnold Ebikate all hit the turf and required medical assistance, and while many of them eventually returned, most of the injuries were met with boos from Kinnick Stadium.

While James Franklin did not provide an update on Clifford, or any other player, he did pay attention to the reaction from the fans when his players went down.

“I do have a little bit of a hard time with our players getting hurt and the fans booing,” Franklin said. “They don’t run a tempo offense, that was not part of our plan.”

Regardless of how the crowd felt about the Penn State injuries, it did play a significant role in the game, especially after the injury to Clifford.

Once Roberson entered, the Penn State offensive line struggled to find a pre-snap rhythm and took multiple false-start penalties, including three in a row before the ball was snapped.

“We didn’t have an issue with crowd noise until we lost Sean,” Franklin said. “[Roberson] is not as loud as Sean.”

Not only was Roberson not nearly as audible as Clifford in the backfield, but he was much less successful.

Roberson went a lackluster 2-for-16 for only 14 yards and two interceptions on passes beyond the line of scrimmage Saturday.

All seven of the throws he attempted of 10 or more yards down field failed to find his receivers’ hands, with two of the attempts landing in Hawkeye hands.

Despite the struggles, Roberson’s mindset is on next week, especially since there is a cloud of uncertainty surrounding Clifford’s status and if, or when, he will be able to suit up again.

While Roberson certainly struggled, he was not helped out by where the Nittany Lions were starting their drives.

Throughout the second half, Penn State often found itself with its back up against the goalline, whereas Iowa was consistently starting near midfield, if not in Penn State territory.

Penn State started inside its own 12-yard line five times in the second half, with only one drive beginning past its own 25.

“We didn’t win the field-position battle,” Franklin said. “Their offense had great field position the entire second half; our offense did not.”

Even though Penn State may have lost in what some may describe as soul-crushing fashion, Franklin’s squad plans on sticking together and moving forward, as it prepares for the remainder of what has the looks of a daunting schedule.

“We’re a family,” Roberson said. “Everyone has each other’s backs.”


Zech Lambert is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zbl5146@psu.edu.