Harvey Levine/FOS

Penn State vs. Iowa: FOS Game Breakdown

Our take on the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions' much-easier-than-expected victory over the Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium.

The final play of No. 12 Penn State’s Saturday night showdown with Iowa at Beaver Stadium saw Nittany Lion backup QB Tommy Stevens dropped for a one-yard loss.

On an evening when PSU justified its unexpectedly high spot in the first College Football Playoff rankings of 2016 with a 41-14 destruction of the supposedly physical Hawkeyes, that lone lost yard had no actual impact on anything important. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1719381-psu-fans-now-get-s...

But from an optics standpoint, it dropped the Lions (now 7-2 and 5-1) from 600 total yards in the game down to 599. And afterward, head coach James Franklin jokingly feigned disgust.

At least we think he was joking.

“I’m frustrated by that,” Franklin said after smacking the podium.

To be sure, there were some things in this game that should have bothered Franklin and his staff just a bit. They included a handful of goofy penalties, having a field goal blocked and a missed assignment or two.

But on a night like this, where Penn State took yet another step toward regaining the elite on-field status it lost thanks to the Sandusky scandal and subsequent NCAA sanctions, the negatives amounted to nothing more than nit-picking.

Keep that in mind as we give you our take on the action.

MAN OF THE HOUR 

Well, this is getting kind of repetitive. Who else can even be considered here but RB Saquon Barkley, who had 20 carries for 167 yards and a score, AND one catch for 44 yards and another TD? He had 211 all-purpose yards with 14:41 left in the game.

CLOSE SECOND 

QB Trace McSorley was an efficient 11 of 18 for 240 yards and two scores. He also carried 14 times for 40 yards and a TD. Once again, he showed great pocket presence.

CLOSE THIRD

Penn State’s defensive line dominated most of the game, limiting the Hawkeyes to 30 rushing yards.

UNSUNG HEROES

Even with starting tackle Brendan Mahon leaving the game in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury, PSU’s offensive line was terrific. The starting quarterback and running back don’t put up the numbers they did without the front five getting it done. A special nod to backup Chasz Wright for filling in for Mahon and really only having one serious breakdown.

TURNING POINT

Penn State had another mistake-prone first quarter, with four penalties for 50 yards and a field goal that was blocked. The Lions led only 7-0, but it should have been more. But early in the second quarter, Barkley went 57 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Iowa never recovered.

SOLID STRATEGY

• Penn State ran the ball 52 times and it just took all of the starch out of the Hawkeyes. The Lions had 359 rushing yards. Iowa entered the game having allowed 153.8 yards per game on the road.

• Once again, Penn State was able to go deep into its bench in the fourth quarter. Getting the backups so much playing time in consecutive blowouts should be big moving forward.

FUN STUFF

Stevens entered the game during a series early in the fourth quarter — but lined up as a receiver. He took a jet sweep from McSorley and showed great speed and even better power by going 13 yards for his first career rushing TD. Iowa sure looked like it quit on that play.

NUMBERS GAME

• Penn State entered the game ranked last in the nation in third-down conversions (25.3 percent). It was good on seven of 14 such plays in this game.

• The Lions dominated time of possession, 35:03 to 24:57.

WHAT'S UP WITH?

• LB Jason Cabinda played well overall (a team-high eight tackles, including a key stop on a fourth-and-1). But he had three personal fouls — two QB roughs and a facemask. Yes, the “hits” on the QB were questionable. But a veteran has to know the zebras will always give the QB the benefit of the doubt in those situations. 

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE

• TE Mike Gesicki had four catches in the game for 65 yards. Three of them came on three consecutive plays in the second quarter and led to McSorley’s one-yard TD run.

• P Blake Gillikin only got two chances. But he averaged 40.5 yards and had both downed inside the 20.

• Kickoff specialist Joey Julius had three touchbacks on seven attempts. The four that were returned netted a total of only 78 yards.

DID YOU NOTICE?

• DB Nick Scott, WR DeAndre Thompkins and DT Parker Cothren were all back after missing the Purdue game with undisclosed injuries.

• Thompkins took over punt return duties in this game. He only had one try for two yards.

• OT Andrew Nelson, on the mend from a season-ending knee injury, was walking around the field during the pregame wearing a hardhat and carrying a lunch box.

• LB Jake Cooper was in a serious sling on his left arm. Cooper was hurt at the end of the Minnesota game, missed the following two outings and then was back for Purdue last week. This sure looks to be season-ending.

• Penn State showing live action from other games on the big screens until about an hour before kick. This has happened the last two home games. Nice move.

UNANSWERED QUESTION 

How high will the Lions climb in the rankings after three teams ahead of them lost?


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