|No. 7 Penn State moves on, aims at Rose Bowl|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 11 November 2008 12:54|
Back then, a 9-0 start and national title aspirations for the Nittany Lions evaporated after a crushing 24-23 loss in early November to an unranked Minnesota on a last-second field goal. That loss started a three-game slide to finish the regular season for Penn State.
Back to the present and Penn State is coming of its first loss of the season, a 24-23 setback to unranked Iowa on a last-second field goal. The Nittany Lions (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) hope the similarities end.
They can still go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 14 seasons by beating Indiana this week and Michigan State next weekend.
``I'm looking forward to getting this thing going again,'' coach Joe Paterno said Tuesday.
JoePa had his typical postgame restless night of sleep before getting back to work on Sunday.
``Well, I wasn't looking behind as much until I came over here,'' Paterno said at his weekly news conference at Beaver Stadium. ``You guys are talking about Iowa, I would prefer to talk about Indiana and put Iowa behind us.''
Quarterback Daryll Clark was distraught after his first defeat as a starting quarterback and the worst perfomance of his season. The fourth-quarter interception he threw deep in Iowa territory set up the drive that led to the game-winning field goal with 1 second left by the Hawkeyes' Daniel Murray.
Former Penn State quarterback and current San Francisco 49er running back Michael Robinson, a mentor to Clark, spoke with Clark afterward over the phone to console him. Clark got a long pep talk from his father when he got home, center A.Q. Shipley reminded Clark he was one of the main reasons that the Nittany Lions got off to a strong start in the first place.
Overall, he hasn't accounted for a touchdown in his last two games, including the Oct. 25 win over Ohio State when he was sidelined in the fourth quarter by a mild concussion.
Clark said again Tuesday that there were no lingering effects from the injury. Penn State, though, did line up receiver Derrick Williams at quarterback at times against Iowa in part out of concern about Clark taking a big hit on designed runs.
Regardless, Clark isn't using his health as an excuse. Returning to practice Monday helped.
``I guess I have some soul searching to do,'' Clark said. ``I'm criticizing myself the most for not making plays. I'm going back to the drawing board. I'm extra ready, and hopefully everything will change up.''
Penn State's run of nearly flawless execution during its 9-0 start came to screeching halt against Iowa. There were offsides and pass interference flags, missed coverages and dropped passes. The offensive line considered one of the best in the conference struggled at times against the tough Iowa front four.
Shipley views these next two games as a learning experience.
``It's a great teaching principle for life in general. Great ups and downs, adversity, how you handle it,'' the senior captain said. ``We're going to find out what kind of character this team has. We're going to find out what kind of determination we have the last two weeks.''
If they are to draw on history for motivation, the source might be 2005 instead of 1999.
The seniors on this team were freshmen then, the last time Penn State advanced to the Bowl Championship Series. The '05 squad rebounded from a stunning last-second loss at unranked Michigan with five straight victories to close out the regular season, earning a trip to the Orange Bowl.
other things or moaning about things that might have been,'' Paterno said. ``The saddest words of all are, 'What might have been,' so I think that we'll be OK. I really do.''
Paterno said starting DE Josh Gaines (left ankle sprain) and nickelback Drew Astorino (broken left thumb) should be available this weekend.