NITTANY NOTES: Pressing Questions

Get exclusive answers on a variety of key issues as Penn State looks to bounce back from the Iowa loss with a road trip to Illinois.

With a heartbreaking 21-10 loss to Iowa last Saturday, Penn State faces a series of key questions about the offensive line, passing game, special teams and quarterback Daryll Clark.

What was the mood of the team in the locker room after the loss?

"Morbid," one observer said. "[The players] were just stunned that so many things went wrong." Observers said there was visible frustration among the players and coaches on the sidelines and in the locker room. Nobody said a word in the walk from the field to the locker room.

"We'd hit a big play and moments later we'd kill ourselves with mistake," another observer said.

Joe Paterno attempted to refocus his troops, though, saying that the season could still be a special one and pointed to the 1982 team that lost to Alabama in the fifth game of the season 42-21 and still went on to win the national championship.

How was Monday's practice?

"I think the guys responded as well as they could," an observer said. "There was good intensity and energy. We'll see if they can carry it [through the week], but the leadership on this team is solid and they can still accomplish a lot."

What is the mental state of Clark after his three interceptions vs. Iowa?

The consensus among observers we spoke with is that Clark is shouldering the blame for the loss and has apologized to teammates. He had a "decent" practice on Monday, but "it's clearly eating away at him."

The coaches have been on him to let the loss go and focus on Illinois, "but come on, the guy stewed on last year's Iowa game for a year — it's just his nature. But the good news is he bounced back from that one too."

What is the problem with kick coverage?

Despite Joe Paterno feeling it is not the hang time of Collin Wagner's kickoffs, observers disagree and indicate that the lack of "air under the ball" has "given too much time for the return teams to set up and get going," before the coverage unit can get down field.

Why are the coaches not playing freshman kicker Anthony Fera?

One of Fera's strong suits is said to be his hang time on kickoffs, which is often about 4.0 seconds. He can also boom field goals. Last week, Wagner was short on a 48-yarder. However, believe it or not, the coaches have been trying to change Fera's kicking motion, especially on field goals.

"I don't know why they are even messing with his motion," an observer said. "He's got the power, just let him use it. Don't mess with his head."

What was the problem on offense against Iowa?

Many observers point squarely to the offensive line and feel that the linemen simply were not able to get a consistent push to protect Clark and open up lanes.

Observers also feel that Clark just was not the same after the early few drives. "After the first quarter the Iowa [defensive] line figured out how to get to Daryll and it seemed to effect his confidence."

What was the problem with PSU's defense line?

"Iowa wasn't even keeping their tight ends in [to block] and the defensive line couldn't get any pressure on Stanzi," an observer said.

The sentiment is that the defensive ends didn't take advantage of their single coverage with Jared Odrick taking on a double-team most of the night. "I expected more from guys like [Eric] Latimore, [Jack] Crawford and [Jerome] Hayes, but they just could not make the edge consistently," according to another observer.

Overall, however, the consensus is that the defene — including the line — held up its end of the bargain in the game. Stanzi finished 11 of 26 for 135 yards, two picks and no TDs.

What happened on the blocked punt?

As one observer simply said, "It was a whiff. It's as simple as that. Joe was really [upset] with that since all week he preached about how the game would come down to special teams. He was right."

Another observer said 213-pound blocker Nick Sukay, who was tossed out of the way by 282-pound defensive end Adrian Clayborn before Clayborn smothered the punt, simply was not big enough to handle his assignment. But the observer was not sure what led to that mismatch.

How is Sean Lee doing?

Observers indicate he is beating himself up a bit for not being able to play in the Iowa game. "He knows he should have taken himself out of the Temple game, but he also knows he has to get over it and get his team re-focused for Illinois."

Will the team bounce back?

Most observers feel that it will, but the major concern is "keeping their heads in the game." There are observers concerned about Clark since "he's taking this one hard," but most feel that Monday's practice was a major positive indicator because the team had a good session.


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