Mistakes once again doom Lions against Iowa

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Iowa always seems to bring out the worst in Penn State, and Saturday night's game provided another mountain of evidence.

Since Daryll Clark took over as the Nittany Lions' starting quarterback in August 2008, Penn State has played relatively clean football, with two notable exceptions.

  • The Rose Bowl loss to USC, where Penn State fell apart in the second quarter and committed three turnovers and nine penalties, looking extremely out of character.

  • Last year's loss at Iowa, where Clark seemed lost for much of the game and Penn State made just enough mistakes to lose 24-23.

Penn State had minimized mistakes throughout its cushy nonconference slate, but the Lions hurt themselves throughout the final three quarters of a 21-10 loss to Iowa. Whether it was protection breakdowns on offense and special teams, poor decision-making by Clark or bad ball security by running back Evan Royster, the Lions seemed to come apart at the seams.

"Every time we had an opportunity to put some points on the board, whether it be three points or a touchdown, something seemed to happen," Clark said. "When we would get something going, an interception or a mistake would happen. It just knocked all of our rhythm out of our offensive drives.

"They took advantage of our mistakes every time."

Penn State could attribute last year's loss to several peripheral factors: Clark's concussion two weeks earlier at Ohio State, blustery weather in Iowa City, a raucous road crowd and an opponent with nothing to lose. But Saturday night, Penn State had all the advantages going its way. Well, maybe not the weather, but both teams dealt with the rain.

And despite jumping out to a 10-0 lead in front of a Whitehouse crowd of 109,316, the Lions couldn't put away the Hawkeyes and crumbled down the stretch with three turnovers in the final 10 minutes.

"Obviously, we'll see that turnovers were a big thing in the game," head coach Joe Paterno said. "The blocked punt started it, but I thought the kids hung in there and tried to come back. We just kept making mistakes."