STATE COLLEGE — Before Saturday, Penn State quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson’s most extensive body of work to date came against Villanova.

The redshirt sophomore attempted five passes — completing three — during the second half of the Nittany Lions’ Week 4 win against the Wildcats.

Roberson left Iowa this past weekend with career highs in attempts (21), completions (seven) and snaps played as he entered in the second quarter in relief of injured starter Sean Clifford.

Roberson was 7-of-21 passing for 34 yards with two interceptions in the 23-20 loss.

While Clifford’s availability moving forward this season remains murky with his undisclosed injury, Penn State coaches will have an extra week to prepare Roberson for Illinois on Oct. 23 if Clifford remains unavailable.

“I have complete confidence,” Penn State linebacker/defensive end Jesse Luketa said of Roberson. “We battle every single day. We make each other better. Iron sharpens iron. I’m looking forward to his opportunity.”

Penn State’s quarterback depth for 2021 became alarmingly thin during the offseason when former backup Will Levis announced his transfer to Kentucky. The departure left the Nittany Lions with just three scholarship quarterbacks in Clifford, Roberson and freshman Christian Veilleux.

Levis started the first half of Penn State’s 2020 game against Iowa in an attempt to reenergize the offense, and he started in Penn State’s 2019 regular-season finale against Rutgers as Clifford was sidelined with an injury.

Entering the 2021 season, Roberson had attempted just one pass during his two seasons with the Nittany Lions. His first career completion came in Week 2 against Ball State when he connected with tight end Brenton Strange for a 23-yard score.

Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich heaped praise on Roberson last week.

“The ball can really pop out of his hand,” Yurcich said. “He’s got really good explosion. He’s got a really good whip with (his) arm, and yet he’s got really good core strength that allows him to rotate and really snap the ball out.”

A lack of experience was just one of several factors Roberson was presented with against the Hawkeyes.

Five of Iowa’s punts were downed inside of the 15-yard line, and three of them were downed inside the 5-yard line giving Penn State’s offense less-than-ideal field position for much of the game. Penn State was also flagged for eight false starts after Roberson took the field.

Penn State’s run game again failed to gain traction. Clifford ran for a team-best 36 yards, and Roberson ended with 27 yards rushing to combine for 63 of Penn State’s 107 yards rushing.

With a back-half of the schedule that includes games against No. 6 Ohio State, No. 8 Michigan and No. 10 Michigan State, the road to a Big Ten East title doesn’t get any easier for the Nittany Lions.

As Clifford’s injury status remains unclear, Yurcich and Penn State coach James Franklin don’t have much margin for error when it comes to making sure Roberson is game-ready and prepared for better showings than the one he had against Iowa.

“At our program, it’s the next-man-up mentality, so Coach Yurcich and Coach Franklin prepare everybody — all the backups — to be in a position like this,” Roberson said.

Trending Video