Especially in the first half, the Penn State coaches were winning the battle. Their defense was so well prepared for this game against Greg Davis and Kirk Ferentz's offense. There was one point in the game when Iowa checked into a different play at the line of scrimmage. Then the Penn State defense made their check, directed by linebacker Jason Cabinda. He literally called out exactly where the Iowa play would go and he was correct. The Nittany Lions were calling out exactly where the Iowa play would go sometimes before the snap. Yes, Iowa is Iowa and they're going to do what they do. I know that. But it's going a little too far when the defense figures out before the snap what the play is and exactly where it will go.
Defensively, they still aren't tackling well. Penn State had receivers wide open most of the night. The communication isn't there in the secondary but they're also getting confused by some of the route combinations that they see. So again, kudos to the Nittany Lion coaching staff for that. When Iowa went to their raider scheme and personnel on defense as they tend to do in passing downs, Trace McSorley would just check to a running play at the line of scrimmage and watch Saquon Barkley run wild. That's how he got his 58 yard touchdown run on third and long. All this comes after a bye week for the Hawkeyes.
It can be justified as to being rusty because of the bye week but Iowa did not come out firing out of the gate as well. Night game in a lively atmosphere and Iowa was asleep at the wheel to begin the game. The Hawkeyes gave up a long kick return to open the contest and allowed Penn State to drive down the field easily for the score. Then they got the ball back and drove it down the field themselves but then couldn't gain one yard on third or fourth down. The Nittany Lions got the ball back and drove down the field easily again but had their field goal blocked. Iowa then responded with a three and out and the Nittany Lions struck again with another touchdown. The first eight minutes of that game were ugly outside of the blocked field goal. Iowa was also fortunate that Penn State beat themselves up a bit with penalties in the first half.
I do disagree with some on the message board. I did see multiple wrinkles. It was more personnel and less play design and scheme, though. We saw Wadley and Daniels on the field together quite a bit. We saw Noah Fant and George Kittle on the field together quite a bit. Those aren't huge wrinkles but they did deviate from the usual personnel packages they had shown thus far. They moved Wadley out wide to create more space and take defenders out of the box, and get another playmaker on the field, but a lot of that purpose gets defeated when he runs to the short side of the field. I know they feel like they can get more of a numbers advantage on short side but they also congest it back together and help load the box again that way.
Fant was used with Kittle but it's not all that effective when he doesn't catch the ball or when Kittle is clearly playing at much less than full strength and is a non-factor in the passing game. Adrian Falconer played a decent amount of snaps and he hadn't played much of all so far this year.
I do want to point out the good things that I did observe in the game. I don't want to be completely negative. C.J. Beathard definitely doesn't look like the same quarterback as he was a year ago. He just hasn't showed a lot of faith and confidence in the receivers that he has right now and his confidence appears blown. But he did show some newfound trust in Jerminic Smith. The coaching staff also put more trust in Jerminic Smith. Jerminic got a lot more targets and showed that he is capable of being quite reliable. That's a step in the right direction.
The screens were nice. Even one to Wadley was sniffed out but still paid off because Akrum was so elusive in space. They have to throw a few of these a game so the defense can't pin their ears back against the Hawkeye offensive line. Greg Mabin has been playing excellent and was great again against Penn State. It seemed like the Nittany Lions went after Desmond King more than Mabin, and were successful with it a few times. Faith Ekakitie was also solid playing in place of an injured Nathan Bazata.