With the win, Iowa goes to 3-0 for the first time since 1997. They had not won a Big Ten opener since a 37-14 win over Illinois in 1998. Despite having a 4-3 record at Happy Valley against Penn State, today's win over the Nittany Lions was only the 2nd in 9 attempts at Kinnick Stadium, and the first home win in the series since the homecoming victory in 1930.
This was one of the worst Iowa special team efforts since 1997, but the first play of the game was great as senior WR Kahlil Hill took the opening kickoff all the way back to the PSU 20. However, in what seemed to set the tone for an ugly game, Iowa came away with no points. Although senior QB Kyle McCann had a very good game, he missed a wide-open receiver on 1st down that would have been a TD. McCann then hit sophomore TE Dallas Clark on a 15-yard pass down for a 1st down, but the drive stalled when senior WR Chris Oliver dropped a perfectly thrown pass in the end zone on 3rd down. Finally, sophomore K Nate Kaeding had his 22-yard kick blocked.
Although a series of penalties helped Penn State move the ball at times, the Iowa Defense played pretty well has they held PSU to 99 total yards in the first half. After Iowa scored on a 1-yard Betts run, PSU got its only offensive score of the half as they knocked in a 37-yard field goal that was set up by an uncharacteristic Betts fumble at the Iowa 20. The other Nittany Lion points came as a result of a safety after sophomore P David Bradley muffed a snap in punting formation and pushed the ball out of the back of the end zone.
Although the running game was very disappointing, McCann consistently found Clark wide open on some well-designed play-action passes. Clark caught seven passes for 116 yards. He had catches of 15 and 16 yards on Iowa's first scoring drive, which covered 78 yards on 10 plays. His 38-yard reception highlighted a six-play, 90-yard drive that ended with Betts' second TD run and gave Iowa a 14-3 lead. It was a mistake-filled game as the Hawks played for the first time since September 8, but they did lead 21-5 at the half.
After building up over two hundred yards of offense in the first half, the Hawks became very conservative in the second half. Betts and the OL were more productive in the 4th quarter, but the coaching staff seemed to put the game in the hands of the Iowa Defense. The defensive staff blitzed less and took fewer gambles in parts of the 2nd half, and Penn State took advantage with a 90-yard drive in 18 plays to cut the score to 21-11 in the 3rd quarter.
The Nittany Lions never got past the Iowa 48 after that, and Kaeding kicked a 47-yard field goal to make the score 24-11.
Penn State made the game interesting late in the 4th quarter when they blocked a Bradley punt and returned it for a TD to make it 24-18. However, on the on-side kick attempt, Clark made a great catch to stop PSU from recovering the attempt. After some key runs by Betts and sophomore RB Aaron Greving, the Hawks ran out the clock at the PSU goal line.
Besides the outstanding game by Clark, a hobbled Betts ran 33 times for 95 yards. McCann had another good performance; as he was 16-25 for 225 yards and 1 TD even though a few passes were dropped. Hill once again stepped forward in his senior year as he had 6 catches for 94 yards and 1 TD.
The offensive line pass blocked very well almost the whole game giving McCann all day to throw on several plays. However, the run blocking was as poor as it has been since midway through last season. The Hawks rarely attempted to run in the guard/center gaps, but Penn State was putting 8 to 9 players in the box on many plays. Betts was not able to help the OL, and it was surprising that the coaches did not rotate the backs more or give the ball to senior FB Jeremy Allen.
On the defensive side, the Nittany Lions were held to 194 yards and only had 33 rushing yards on 27 carries. Sophomore CB Bennie Sapp, sophomore LB Grant Steen, and senior LB R.J. Meyer all had solid games.
The DL once again showed that it is going to be tough to run on this season. The ability of the group to be physical really helps against the run, but the pass rush was inconsistent. It would be nice if some sort of speed rusher complimented the run stoppers that are already present. In defense of the front four, they did hold PSU to anemic statistics while playing much of the second half in basic sets with little blitzing.
Purdue is the next opponent, and the Boilermakers won 35-28 over Minnesota today in a miracle fashion. The game is in West Lafayette, and the defending Big Ten champs are going to be much better at home than they were in the Metrodome today.
After playing for the first time in 20 days, Iowa has an excuse for all of their miscues today. The coaching staff should have a lot of fun showing the game film this week. Now that they have gotten this first game after a long break out of the way, there should be an immense amount of improvement next Saturday. There better be, because the atmosphere and opponent at West Lafayette are not going to be so forgiving as Kinnick and PSU were today.