Clark Ready to Respond

Penn State QB is anxious to bounce back against Indiana after was he called a "terrible" showing in a loss to Iowa last weekend.

You could drive yourself crazy mulling the parallels between Penn State's loss to Iowa last Saturday and the infamous loss to Minnesota nine years ago. That previous defeat, which ended the Nittany Lions' 1999 national title bid, occurred at the same point in the season (first week of November) and was by the same method (last-second field goal) resulting in the same final score (24-23).

Yep, you could drive yourself crazy, all right. That's why Daryll Clark is done thinking about the game.

“It's something that you want to forget entirely, but not until you've looked at the corrections that need to be made,” the junior quarterback. “That's what we did [Monday]. We watched film, looked at all the things that were left on the field that should have been done and all the mistakes that were made. And we're going to move on. For the rest of the week we're going to be focused on Indiana.”

Clark, whose fourth-quarter interception set up the Hawkeyes' winning drive, was disconsolate after the game. He talked to his father, who, he said, “doesn't just sugar-coat it and cater to me just because I'm his son.” He also talked to former Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson, a close friend who suffered a similarly heartbreaking loss at Michigan in 2005.

Still reeling, Clark talked to both of his parents on Sunday as well as Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno. While those conversations didn't set his mind entirely at ease, they did help him refocus. Said Clark, “[Paterno] told me, 'Guys are going to feed off of you, so you can't come out here on Monday with your head down, because there's still a lot to play for and they're going to look to you to see how you're going to react.' ”

Penn State players are determined to avoid the fate that befell the 1999 team. Following the loss to Minnesota, the Lions closed out their regular season with losses to Michigan and Michigan State and, after entertaining thoughts of a national championship just a month earlier, ended up settling for a spot in the Alamo Bowl.

This year's team is eager to keep from going down that road. The Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl, after all, are still within reach. Said Clark, “There was a lot said about the '99 team, that once they suffered that loss, for the rest of the season, it played out that the guys became individuals and not a team. We're using that [example] to make sure we don't do that. There's still a lot out there for us. We're going to stay together, and we have too much leadership on this team to split up at the end.”

For Clark, it's also personal. He's completed 21 of 43 passes for 207 yards in Penn State's past two games, a drop-off from the team's first seven games. There were some mitigating circumstances. Both were on the road in front of loud, hostile crowds, and the Iowa game was played in a howling wind. But Clark sounds as though he has something to prove, if not to fans and media, then to himself.

“This is testing my will,” he said. “I did some soul searching on Sunday. It was like, 'OK, for the past couple of games, you really haven't come to the party. What are you going to do?' It's not like I haven't prepared enough or I was taking teams lightly or anything like that. It just happened. But you have two games left. What are you going to do to help this team out? Are you going to step it up, or are you just going to be mediocre like you've been? I can't accept that. I have to play the best possible way I can. My efforts were terrible Saturday, and it would be unacceptable for it to continue.

“I'm not going to change at all,” he continued. “Our coaches do everything in their power to get us prepared. We're prepared for every single game. It's just a matter of getting out there and getting this damn thing done.”

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