Things are not very happy in Happy Valley.
Penn State is 0-4 for only the second time in program history — the other time was 2001 — and questions about play calling, defense and quarterback play, among other things, are haunting the Nittany Lions football team.
Iowa comes to State College, Pa., riding a two-game winning streak and wanting to snap its six-game skid against Penn State.
By the way, the Nittany Lions have never been 0-5.
Here are 5 Things about Saturday’s opponent:
1. Penn State has other issues
There are many concerns in State College right now, beyond the aforementioned three.
According to published reports, things like maturity and discipline are a problem.
“The extracurriculars after a play, like wildly celebrating a tackle when down by double-digit points, have been on the rise the past few years, a sign of immaturity and lack of discipline,” wrote Mike Poorman at StateCollege.com.
Even Coach James Franklin acknowledged it.
“All the little extra stuff after every single play,” Franklin said on Saturday. “That’s got to get corrected. We’ve been talking about it for three years.”
And that’s not all. Tight end Pat Freiermuth, a two-year captain, said he’s seeing “stuff that we’ve never done” before. The Nittany Lions are young, but ...
“Kids have to grow up. It’s the little things off the field that are frustrating, which kind of goes on.” said Freiermuth, who had seven catches for a career-high 113 yards against Nebraska. “... Showing up late stuff. Just not doing things that Coach Franklin has preached to us to be successful, not only in football but in life.
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“We just have to hold each other accountable.”
2. Turnovers are an issue for Penn State offense
Maybe the most consistent, on the field, issue throughout the first four games has been turnovers.
Penn State has lost three fumbles and quarterback Sean Clifford has thrown six interceptions this season, giving up 33 points off those turnovers.
“It’s the turnovers,” Franklin said after the Nebraska game. “It’s hard to get into a rhythm, hard to get into a groove. ...”
Iowa, for what it’s worth, has had an interception in 11 straight games.
“Turnovers continue to be a problem, not only turnovers but turnovers for touchdowns,” Franklin said.
3. QB battle: Sean Clifford and Will Levis
As mentioned above, Clifford has had some issues this year.
The 6-foot-2, 217-pound junior from Cincinnati has completed 74 of 130 passes for 896 yards. He has thrown nine touchdowns passes and has a QB rating of 128.4. He ranks fifth in the Big Ten at 224 yards per game, four spots in front of Iowa’s Spencer Petras (189.8 ypg).
But those six interceptions have opened the door for Will Levis, a 6-3, 222-pound sophomore from Madison, Conn. Levis replaced Clifford in the second quarter Saturday and passed for 219 yards — on 14-of-31 passing — and rushed for 61 against Nebraska.
A starter has not been named for this Saturday.
“We need to be a little bit more consistent in the details in the things that we’re doing,” Franklin said. “But I think (Levis) definitely gave us a spark and gives us something to build on for sure.”
4. The stats are telling for Penn State
Halfway through this eight-game pandemic-shortened regular season, the stats are pretty telling for the Nittany Lions.
They are doing some good things on offense — 437 yards per game (third in the Big Ten), including 278.8 through the air (also third). But they rank near the bottom in points per game (25.0).
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Penn State also is decent on defense, allowing 360 yards per game (sixth in the league), including 129.5 rushing yards (fifth). But the Nittany Lions are 11th in points allowed (34.8).
The offense is having issues finding the end zone under first-year coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca and the defense is allowing too many big plays, like the 45-yard jet sweep Nebraska scored on or the 49-yard reception Ohio State turned into a TD. All five Maryland TDs covered at least 34 yards.
5. Penn State football history lesson
Penn State’s storied, and sordid, football history is well-documented,
The late Joe Paterno won an NCAA-record 409 games from 1966 to 2011, but his legacy was tarnished by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Paterno was fired, the NCAA originally vacated many of his victories and his statue was torn down. In 2015, the NCAA restored those victories and Paterno remains the winningest coach in NCAA history.
But what do you know about George W. Hoskins, percentage-wise the winningest coach in Penn State history. He was the program’s first official coach, compiling a 17-4-4 record from 1892 to 1895. His teams went 5-1, 4-1 and 6-0-1 before the dismal 2-2-3 campaign in 1895.
He later coached at Pittsburgh and Bucknell.
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