The Good, the Bad & the Ugly 2021: Penn State

By Mike Jones on October 12, 2021 at 10:22 am
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Good: Special Teams & the Secondary

We all swoon over Tory Taylor and that’s fine because he’s one of the best, if not the best punter in the nation. It was a typical day of dominance for the Aussie: nine punts for a total of 398 yards (44.2 AVG), long of 53 yards, six punts inside the 20. His most important punt of the day came on Iowa’s penultimate drive of the game, when Kirk & Co. decided that taking a knee and giving the ball back to Ta’Quan Roberson was a safer bet than risking a fumble.* With 39 seconds left on the clock, Taylor booted it high in the air, forcing Jahan Dotson to call a fair catch on his own eight yard line. With that punt, Ferentz knew Penn State would have to go at least 50+ yards to have a decent shot at tying the game. They never came close.

So, yes, Tory Taylor is the best. But the real winner on Saturday was Caleb Shudak. Shudak went 3-3, with his most important kicks coming late in the game. He was good from 34, 36, and 48 yards out. He also never had a kickoff returned, with four of his six kickoffs resulting in proper touchbacks.

Oh, and how about Ivory Kelly-Martin downing that ball at the one-yard line?

Matt Hankins was named the Big Ten’s Co-Defensive Player of the Week for his actions in less than two in-game minutes. First, up 23-20, the Hawkeyes desperately needed a stop late in the fourth quarter as Penn State had driven from their own 25 to Iowa’s 47-yard line. They were rapidly approaching field goal range but they also needed to convert a short fourth-and-3. Roberson threw to Keyvone Lee, who was promptly tackled by Hankins after a gain of two yards. Turnover on downs.

With the ball back, Iowa simply ran it up the middle, forcing the Nittany Lions to use their timeouts. The Hawkeyes punted, setting up the Nittany Lions at their own eight-yard line. It then went:

  • Ta’Quan Roberson pass incomplete.
  • Ta’Quan Roberson pass incomplete.
  • Ta’Quan Roberson pass incomplete.
  • Ta’Quan Roberson pass intercepted by Matt Hankins.

With that, you have your Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week.

And statistically, Hankins wasn’t even the best player in the secondary! That honor goes to Jack Koerner, who had seven total tackles, four of them solo, and an interception. Riley Moss, of course, had an interception, and we hope Riley feels better. It was a stat-padding day for the defensive backfield.

* - This will forever be the most insane Coach Think decision by Kirk Ferentz, to me. That you trusted your defense more than Tyler Goodson not to fumble is a wild gamble, to me, but hey, it worked.

The Bad: Not Naming Tory Taylor Special Teams Player of the Week

Apparently the Big Ten was more impressed by Michigan’s Jacob Moody, who was able to kick four field goals in their win at Nebraska. Of course, you shouldn’t need four field goals to beat Nebraska but hey, Michigan is what Michigan is these days.

The Ugly: This Series

I take zero pleasure in Iowa playing Penn State. I am joyless when it is Penn State week because I have nothing to say about Penn State. I started blogging back in law school, so paying close attention to college football is something I’ve done for the better part of 15 years. If you go to Wikipedia and you type in Penn State, the third result is “Penn State child sex abuse scandal.” Joking about Ohio State and tattoos is fun. Joking about Eric Dickerson driving a Trans-Am is fun. There is nothing funny about Penn State. We cannot make jokes about Penn State or their fans for the same reason we cannot make jokes about Jonestown.

So, when Twitter is getting blown up by Penn State fans who are mad about Iowa fans booing supposed injured players, I don’t have the time for it. College football fandom is not a purity test and if it was, Penn State fans sure as shit wouldn’t be the arbiter for what is good and bad. I’m glad this series is taking a year off because Iowa fans shouldn’t have to deal with this. I think it should take a few years off. In fact, I’d be OK if we never played Penn State again. 

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