Week 7 scouting report: Penn State

Penn State’s pass rush is a force to be reckoned with, but its return game isn’t.


Nick Rohlman

Penn State players celebrate in front of the student section after Iowa’s game against Penn State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, October 27, 2018. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes 30-24.

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

After losing to Michigan on Oct. 5 in a game decided by defenses, the Big Ten doesn’t get much easier for the Hawkeyes this week.

Penn State has the second-best scoring offense in the Big Ten, behind only Ohio State, and its defensive line is a force to be reckoned with, especially after Nate Stanley suffered eight sacks in Michigan Stadium.

Despite key strengths that the Penn State offense and defense hold, it also has its low points that Iowa can use to its advantage.

14.3 yards per kick return/7.1 yards per punt return

Penn State ranks last in the Big Ten for kick returns and 10th in punt returns this season after averaging just 14.3 yards and 7.1 yards, respectively.

K.J. Hamler has taken the majority of punt returns with 15 for 92 yards on the season. He averages 6.13 yards per return with a long of 26.

Hamler has also seen action in kickoffs with a little more success. In the three that he’s ran back, he has an average of 19 yards with a long of 24.

Consider the increase of production Iowa has found on special teams this season with the addition of punter Michael Sleep-Dalton and kickoff specialist Caleb Shudak, and the Hawkeyes have a real chance to feast in the field position battle.

 499.7 yards per game

While Penn State averages almost 500 yards per game, the majority of those have come from through the air.


Quarterback Sean Clifford has led his offense to 261.3 passing yards per game, second to only Michigan State in the Big Ten. He completes two-thirds of his pass attempts and isn’t prone to mistakes; he has only thrown two all season.

Hamler also leads the team with 19 receptions and 394 yards, an average of 20.7 yards per reception.

Following him on the leaderboard is Jahan Dotson with 242 yards on the season, and he holds Clifford’s longest pass of the season at 72 yards.

Hamler, Dotson, and tight end Pat Freiermuth have combined for 10 of Penn State’s 13 receiving touchdowns, making them important targets for Clifford and a challenge for Iowa’s defense that showed it can handle the toughest wide receivers in Michigan.

Clifford is a dual-threat quarterback, ranking third among Nittany Lions in net rushing yards for the season. He owns the most carries for the team and averages 40 rushing yards per game.


When he does hand off the ball, it’s mostly to Journey Brown or Noah Cain, but for Iowa’s defensive line, it’s going to be important to contain Clifford and limit the long runs.

Five sacks per game

Penn State leads the Big Ten with an average of five sacks per game and 25 total, only trailing Ohio State with 28 (4.7 average through six games).


The Nittany Lions’ defensive line has the ability to stuff the running game on big plays and break through the offensive line to get to the quarterback. For an Iowa team that allowed eight sacks a week ago, Penn State’s defense will be a challenge.

Yetur Gross-Matos leads the team with 5.5 sacks for a loss of 45 yards, followed by Shaka Toney’s five sacks for 35 yards.