PSU Football: Clark takes blame for problems on offense, but Paterno's not sold
November 12, 2008 5:00 AM
Charlie Neiberrgall/Associated Press
Iowa's Adrian Clayborn tracks down quarterback Daryll Clark early in Saturday's game in Iowa City, Iowa.
By Ron Musselman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Penn State's high-powered offense has been stuck in neutral the past two games.
The Nittany Lions have produced just five field goals and three touchdowns in a seven-point victory at Ohio State and a one-point loss at Iowa.
• Game: No. 7 Penn State (9-1) vs. Indiana (3-7).
• When: Noon Saturday.
• TV: Big Ten Network.
There is plenty of blame to go around for the slump that has ruined 9-1 Penn State's perfect season and its shot at a berth in the national championship game.
Quarterback Daryll Clark has taken his share of hits on and off the field, but even he acknowledged yesterday that his numbers are hard to defend.
Clark has not thrown a touchdown pass in 10 quarters and has not run for one in eight entering No. 7 Penn State's Big Ten Conference game Saturday against Indiana at Beaver Stadium. Through the first eight games, he accounted for 19 touchdowns -- 11 passing and eight rushing.
"This is a test of my will," he said in a conference call. "Like I said, I did some soul-searching on Sunday. I'm like: 'OK, the past couple of games you really haven't come to the party. What are you going to do?' It's not like I haven't prepared enough or taken the teams lightly or anything like that. It just happened.
"But you have two games left. 'What are you going to do to help this team out? Are you going to step it up or are you going to be mediocre?'
"I can't accept that. I have to play the best possible way that I can. My efforts were terrible Saturday. It would be unacceptable for it to continue."
Clark, a first-year starter who has slipped to No. 3 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency with a 139.6 rating, is coming off the worst game of his career.
He was dealt his first loss as a starter, completing just 9 of 23 passes for 86 yards against Iowa. Clark also threw a costly interception, setting up the winning field goal in the Hawkeyes' 24-23 upset victory.
"I think he's being too tough on himself," coach Joe Paterno said. "In fact, I told him that [Sunday] on the practice field. I think he's done fine. They dropped passes on him.
"... When we talk about why we're not being a little more productive offensively, we haven't made a lot of great catches, and we dropped some passes that would have an impact on whether we go for a field goal or we get a touchdown."
Penn State flanked Clark out wide on several occasions against Iowa and had wide receiver Derrick Williams take the direct snap from shotgun formation. Paterno said that move was made in an effort to prevent Clark from being injured while running the ball.
"Part of the reason we did that with Derrick was because we were concerned about Clark still having the concussion," Paterno said.
The past two games, Clark has completed 49 percent of his passes (21 of 43) for 207 yards and an interception. The first eight games, he hit on 63.3 percent (114 of 180) for 1,531 yards and two interceptions.
He left the Ohio State game early in the fourth quarter with a mild concussion. Backup Pat Devlin replaced him and rallied the Lions with 10 points in a 13-6 victory.
Clark has produced only 252 yards of total offense the past two games after registering 1,721 the first eight.
Meanwhile, Penn State's offense has managed 570 yards and 36 points the past two games after piling up 3,857 yards, 43 touchdowns and 13 field goals the first eight.
"You're going to get pressure sometimes, but you're going to have to step up and make some plays happen," Clark said. "I haven't been able to do that and I'm criticizing myself the most for just not making plays.
"I'm going back to the drawing board, going over everything I have to go over for this week, so that I'm extra ready. Hopefully, everything will change up."
Clark and the Lions had plenty of chances against Iowa, but couldn't deliver:
• They had a first-and-goal at the Iowa 2 in the first quarter but had to settle for a field goal from Kevin Kelly.
• They had a first-and-10 at the Iowa 14 in the second quarter but had to call on Kelly again.
• They had a first-and-10 at the Iowa 12 in the third quarter but had to settle for another Kelly three-pointer.
"We should have had at least 17 points instead of nine," Paterno said.
NOTES -- Defensive end Josh Gaines (left ankle) and nickel back Drew Astorino (broken thumb) are probable for Saturday's game. ... Paterno, who has had five perfect seasons in his 43 years, said: "To win them all is tough if you're playing anybody pretty good."