IOWA: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the ugly from Penn State's easier-than-the-score-indicated victory over the Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State players spent most of the past week explaining that Iowa's recent dominance of the series between the two programs was really no great motivating factor as the teams prepared to square off in Beaver Stadium Saturday. The Hawkeyes entered the game having won eight of the last nine meetings.

After manhandling their nemesis 13-3 before an amped-up crowd of 103,497, the now 5-1 Nittany Lions admitted that maybe they really had been a bit anxious to get this particular monkey off their collective back.

“It means everything,” defensive tackle Devon Still said. “Of course, during the week we tried to downplay the victories they've had over us in the past. But it feels that much better that we went out there and beat 'em.”

Added offensive tackle Quinn Barham: “It feels great man. … You get tired of it. You want to be that team to really beat them. It feels good to be that team and be that senior class that beat Iowa.”

The best thing about this game from Penn State's perspective? It dominated the line of scrimmage throughout, both offensively and defensively. That's an extremely positive sign as the Nittany Lions plow forward in what appears to be a decidedly average (outside of Wisconsin) Big Ten.

But it was not all good news Saturday. While there were really no issues with the defense or special teams, the offense continued to struggle in the red zone. Penn State was 3 of 4 inside of Iowa's 20-yard line, but only one of the conversions was a touchdown. The Nits also had another red-zone turnover.

If not for those struggles, this may well have been a blowout.

Having said that, when it comes to tangling with Iowa (3-2), we are definitely in the “win-is-a-win” camp.

Here is how things played out in our eyes.

MAN O' THE HOUR: Still did what so many Iowa defensive tackles have done to Penn State through the year -- he dominated. He had six tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Because Iowa consistently double teamed him, it allowed the PSU blitz packages to succeed. TV analyst Urban Meyer said the Nittany Lion senior could be playing himself into a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft.

CLOSE SECOND: A collective shout-out to the Penn State offensive line, which played by far its best game of the year. Silas Redd finally had some running room and pounded out 142 yards on 28 carries. Backup Curtis Dukes had 60 yards on nine carries. Iowa managed only one sack. We've been critical of the line this year. Saturday, it stepped up big time.

HONORABLE MENTION: Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges blitzed frequently. He finished with five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Another strong game for the junior.

OPPOSING MVP: Linebacker James Morris had a dozen tackles for the Hawkeyes.

TURNING POINT: A series after QB Matt McGloin threw an inexplicable interception in the end zone, the Penn State coaching staff decided to see what its offensive line was made of. Near the start of the fourth quarter, the Lions began a drive at the Iowa 49 (following Nate Stupar's recovery of the fumble Hodges caused) and ran on 10 straight plays to take the ball to the Iowa 2. From there, McGloin threw a short scoring pass to TE Kevin Haplea for a 13-3 lead that all but iced the game.

STRONG STRATEGY: Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said he called more blitzes in the second half than he had at any time in recent memory. It worked. The Hawkeyes managed 114 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes.

BY THE NUMBERS: Penn State dominated time of possession, 35:54-24:06. That included a 9:59-5:01 edge in the fourth quarter.

JOE SHOW: Paterno spent the first half on the sideline before heading to the press box. He admitted that he was more sore than he had been in a while.

ASSISTANT ASSESSMENT: Bradley obviously pushed all the right buttons.

GREAT PLAY: McGloin's scoring pass to Haplea was a perfect call.

NOT-SO-GREAT PLAY: McGloin's interception into the end zone was a disaster. Penn State led 6-3 and had just marched 90 yards to the Iowa 6. He rolled right and floated a duck toward Derek Moye in the back left corner of the end zone. Moye is 6-foot-5. He was being covered by 6-1 safety Micah Hyde, who easily made the interception. Sure, it was McGloin's first pick of the season. But it is the kind of play that really is not acceptable if he hopes to hammer down the starting job.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Anthony Fera continued to shine. He averaged 43.8 yards on five punts and was good on two short field-goal tries. He also had a pair of touchbacks on four kickoffs. If we have a nit to pick, it is that he must do a better job of killing punts inside the 20.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Moye only had two catches. But they were good for a total of 42 yards.

HIT SQUAD: Linebacker Khairi Fortt tracked down scrambling Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg and logged his first career sack to end the first half.

HIDDEN HERO: How about the heart showed by Evan Lewis? He was benched after making only 1 of 5 field goals to start the season. Saturday, the staff sent him out for what appeared to be a 34-yard try in the first quarter. But Lewis took the direct snap and ran eight yards for a first down.


• The offense is much better with McGloin at the helm. Yet Rob Bolden still got the start and then played the second series of the second half. Would be nice if the offensive staff stopping messing around with this situation and went with the better QB.

• Safety Drew Astorino had a team-high 11 tackles. But he missed two tackles on Iowa's first possession and then, in the third quarter, dropped an easy pick six. He should have had an epic game but really did not.

• Speaking of fifth-year seniors, tight end Andrew Szczerba had two catches for 20 yards, including a heads-up 19-yarder that deflected off an official. But he also had a personal foul penalty that wiped out PSU's momentum on a first-quarter drive. From fumbles to key penalties, he seems to be good for one serious miscue per game.

• Senior tailback Stephfon Green finally returned from suspension. He was on the field for one play. And that play was? You guessed it, an attempted screen, which has been something of a specialty for Green in his career. Apparently Iowa knew this, too. On a third-and-9 play, Green was dropped for a four-yard loss.


• CB D'Anton Lynn (concussion), RB Brandon Beachum (ankle) and WR Curtis Drake (leg) did not dress for the game.

• Freshman Adrian Amos made his first career start at corner. He got the nod in place of Stephon Morris, who was out with an ankle injury. Morris had replaced Lynn. Amos made two tackles and broke up a pass and generally did a good job on Hawkeye wideout Marvin McNutt.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: How long will Penn State remain tied for first (2-0) in the Big Ten Leaders Division?



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