Lions Hand Over a Victory

Turnovers and mistakes prove costly as Penn State tastes defeat for the first time in 2009.

Penn State couldn't have asked for a faster start to its Big Ten-opening, revenge-seeking Whiteout game against Iowa at Beaver Stadium Saturday.

It took all of one snap.

On PSU's first offensive play from scrimmage, Daryll Clark went play action. He found wide receiver Chaz Powell wide open along the sideline to his left. Eleven seconds was all the Nittany Lions needed to go up 7-0. Powell's jaunt went for 79 yards. That number was seven yards fewer than Clark threw for against the Hawkeyes last year.

After a Nick Sukay interception, Penn State constructed a 20-play, 68-yard drive that consumed 10:17 of the first quarter clock. That drive ended with a Collin Wagner field goal for a 10-0 lead.

No. 5 Penn State (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) appeared to have created its own feeling of offensive goodwill. But whatever was done positively in the first quarter was washed away by crucial mistakes -- appropriate for a game played in a persistent rain -- in its 21-10 loss to unranked Iowa (4-0, 1-0) in front of 109,316 soaking wet, stunned fans inside Beaver Stadium.

“I don't know, I would have to look at the tape before we start saying this is what happened, that is what happened,” Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. “But obviously the turnovers were a big thing in the game. A blocked punt started it and the whole bit.”

On the Nittany Lions' third drive of the game, the luck changed for the offense and the mistakes began to mount.

Iowa's punter, Ryan Donahue pinned the Lions inside their 10-yard line, specifically at the 6. A false start penalty pushed that back to the 3, which was followed by a 2-yard loss by running back Evan Royster, who narrowly escaped the south end zone.

Two plays later, Penn State was not as lucky.

On a third-and-14, Clark dropped back to pass but was sacked and stripped in the end zone by Iowa's Broderick Binns. Johnnie Troutman recovered in the end zone, but Iowa put its first points on the scoreboard and trailed 10-2.

“No, I don't think so,” tight end Andrew Quarless said when asked if the safety was the changing point for the offense. “I just think it was a lot of mistakes, oversight of the ball, too many turnovers.”

If the safety wasn't the turning point of the game, what happened at the 12:21 mark of the fourth quarter was.

The Lions had marched to the Hawkeye 47 before being forced to punt.

Jeremy Boone, who had never had a punt blocked in his three years as the Penn State punter, had smothered after Adrian Clayborn shed the block of the up-man Sukay. Clayborn, without any rain-darkened blue-and-white jerseys around him, scooped the ball and ran freely into the south end zone where a shocked student section was deafened.

The try for two missed by Iowa led 11-10.

“That's the part about playing special teams,” Boone said. “You gotta be on point. Coach [Larry] Johnson has always been on us. And it was point proven today: if you're not on you're game every time, then something can happen.”

Penn State had more than a couple of chances to regain the lead after the blocked punt. But the second half of Saturday evening's upset was marred by possessions ending abruptly with ill-timed turnovers.

Case in point one: On the Iowa 49-yard line, Clark threw a pass to Royster. The ball tipped off Royster's hands and into the arms of Iowa's Pat Angerer. Angerer returned the ball to the Penn State 24-yard line. Three Adam Robinson rushes later and a one-point deficit turned into eight, 18-10.

Case in point two: Powell took the kickoff to the Lions' 49-yard line. He drew a late-hit penalty. The next play, Royster took a handoff from Clark and ran down the sideline to his right. He gained 18 yards on the play, but he also fumbled the ball, ending what was a rare Penn State trip to the red zone.

Case in point three: After the PSU defense forced a punt, Clark went back to work. But on third and 10 from his own 30, he was picked by A.J. Edds. Iowa chewed up most of the rest of the clock before boosting the lead to 21-10 with a short field goal.

“Every time we had a chance to put points on the board, whether it be three points or a touchdown, something seemed to happen,” Clark said.

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