This one was the biggest one for me, mainly because at one point we saw C.J. Beathard check the play and one of the Penn State linebackers knew right away where it was going. There was video evidence of said linebacker waiting for Beathard to finish and then pointing to where the play was going before it was even ran.
While I feel the 4th and 1 quick sneak by the QB can work in most situations, you've got to mix it up. For instance, Iowa went for it on 4th and 1 on their first drive of the game and you knew what was coming, I knew what was coming, and you can bet Penn State knew what was coming. It looked like they had seven players lined up over the center waiting for it and Jason Cabinda blew Beathard up as he attempted to leap over the line for the first down.
And then the last one was just your general 3rd and 1's or 2's. Iowa sticks with the power run game even though if they ran some sort of bootleg and got Beathard into space with maybe a pass catcher or two as an option we could see a first down, but they don't. Every Penn State player knows they can break contain and help out because Iowa's offense is so predictable. I don't think we saw one shot downfield just to keep the safeties honest and when you aren't doing that it just shrinks the field and you get what you got last night.
You would've thought after coming off a bye week that Iowa would be ready to play. You're 5-3, you're heading into a game against one of the better teams in the conference and if you win this game we probably see College Gameday in Iowa City next weekend for your primetime matchup with Michigan. But we absolutely did not see that. We saw Desmond King do something we aren't too familiar to seeing, which was bite on a little pump fake from Trace McSorely. We saw missed tackles and even the BTN sideline reporter admitted nobody seemed to be playing the leader role in terms of getting peoples heads on straight on the sideline after falling behind early.
I figured after going down 14-0 that they would come around and work out the kinks, but they just looked uninterested. Penn State was winning the line of scrimmage, playing smart, playing hard, and well they just looked like they wanted it more (I know, such a cliche, but it was true). For Iowa, it just looked like they were going through the motions.
He had a productive night despite all the negative reaction surrounding this game. The true sophomore caught 5 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown in the blowout. It looked like, and Derek alluded to this a bit in his takeaways, that Beathard may be starting to trust him a bit more as a receiving threat. Smith is still coming into his own a bit, but he showed that he can be a productive receiver if given some targets. This was probably his second biggest output of his career right behind the Illinois game at home last year.
If Smith continues to develop he and Nathan Stanley could be quite the tandem next season.
Who takes blame here?
There has been a lot of talk on here about whether this is a players not executing thing or a coaches not being prepared kind of thing. I'm usually one that doesn't like to blame coaching, but that isn't the case here. The Iowa coaching staff was clearly out-coached in this one by James Franklin and his staff. You could just tell by watching the game. Penn State did a much better job preparing for what Iowa was going to do as opposed to the opposite.
One play comes to mind when Iowa lined up in their raider package. The Penn State QB McSorely sees this and checks to a run for Saquon Barkley, which promptly went 57 yards to the end zone. I'm not saying McSorely isn't a smart ball player, but the coaches had him prepared for what Iowa likes to run and he recognized and switched it up. It was masterful.
Obviously, not all blame can be placed on the coaches. The Iowa players looked overwhelmed to say the least. The offense wasn't executing, the defense was exhausted, and that is no winning formula in college football. Beathard is an experienced Big Ten QB, but he did not play like it at all.