Penn State - Iowa Preview

The Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1) come to Beaver Stadium this Saturday with hopes of extending their winning streak against Penn State to three. The Nittany Lions (3-0) eagerly await the challenge.

Date: Saturday September 28, 2002
Time: 12:05 EDT
TV: ESPN National - Mark Jones, Bob Davie, and Holly Rowe
Radio: The Penn State Radio Network with Steve Jones and Jack Ham

Penn State leads the series 6 to 5 and has taken 4 of the last 5 in Happy Valley.

Iowa Record and Results

Iowa is 3-1 thus far with big home wins over outmanned Akron and Utah State, a 29-24 road win at Miami of Ohio, and a 36-31 home loss to Iowa State.

The Iowa Offense

At QB for Iowa is 6'1" 190lbs. Sr. Brad Banks (left, Charlie Niebergall AP). Banks has a strong arm, decent accuracy, is very shifty and can run with the ball. Banks' strength is probably the fact he can move around the pocket very well, something they like to do with him in part because he isn't that tall, and his strong arm. His accuracy is okay, but not great.
Banks is currently 5th among NCAA QB's in pass efficiency ratings, but it's almost impossible to ascertain much from that given the fact that Iowa has played against some of the poorer defenses among Division I teams.
The Iowa offensive line is the strength of this team. Iowa allowed a mere 20 sacks last year and has yielded only 3 sacks so far in 2002. They are also leading one of the nations top rushing attacks. Iowa averages 262 yards rushing and 479 yards in total per game, both among the best in the nation. So, this unit has been very good in both run and pass blocking.
Regardless of the level of competition thus far, this offensive line is a very good unit that can execute all of the blocks called for in Coach Ferentz's offense. One of the standard blocking packages used by Iowa is the zone block. Iowa does this as well or better than any team we have faced in recent years, and that includes the 1999 Miami squad that also used this type of block on occasion. Minnesota and Toledo have both used zone blocks against PSU in recent years and Iowa will do the same, and at a very high level.
This unit is led by four seniors - Bruce Nelson, David Porter, Eric Steinbach, and Andy Lightfoot.
If the Iowa offensive line is the strength of that team, then Jr. tailback Fred Russell (right), 5'9" and 175lbs, isn't far behind. This scatback is rushing for 157 yards per game in three games so far, 2nd in the nation on a per game basis. He's also a huge play threat. In three games Russell has scored touchdowns from 35, 44, and 46 yards out.
Jermelle Lewis and Aaron Greving are the backups at tailback. Lewis himself has a 73 yard run to his credit against Utah State.
Jr. wide receiver Maurice Brown leads the Hawkeyes in receptions with 16 grabs for 334 yards. Brown too has been a big play guy. He has recorded receptions of 50 and 56 yards and he has 4 other catches of more than 25 yards to his credit.
Ed Hinkle, C.J. Jones, and true freshman Clinton Solomon all have 9 grabs apiece from the WR spot.
TE Dallas Clark (left, Buzz Orr AP) also has 9 catches this year and is one of the best TE's Penn State will face this year. If you don't cover him well, he will burn you.
As an entire unit, Iowa has outscored their opponents 65-7 in the first quarter so far this year. Iowa is gaining over 7 yards per play attempt this year and is getting 7.5 yards per play on first down. This is allowing them to keep a wide variety of second play calls going and the Hawkeys are maximizing their potential on offense thus far. Iowa has also fumbled the ball 7 times this year and lost five of those fumbles. 
Iowa uses a very balanced approach. They have succeeded this far both passing and running the ball. They have done an incredible job so far of controlling the clock against teams because they can run the ball when they need to. Their bread and butter run plays are off tackle pitches, sweeps, and counters where they try and get their big linemen out on your linebackers and create lanes through which Russell, Lewis and Greving can run. They will use the counter toss as their most basic running play where the tailback cuts back against the grain and tries to run by you for big yardage. 
The Hawkeyes run plenty of play action as well. Banks will throw slants, curls, short and deep crossing routes and fly patterns from both the pocket and while rolling out. This is an offense with a lot of variety and it won't be real easy to stop them from moving the ball and racking up some yardage.
Banks is quick, and Russell is super quick, ala Anthony Davis at Wisconsin. I expect Iowa to get their fair share of yardage in this game as they are good enough to move the ball on anyone. They key is to limit them, slow them down and make them work to get downfield by taking away the big plays. You need to be very aggressive at linebacker in filling lanes and taking down the ball carrier, yet no so aggressive you bite on all those play action fakes.
You can't allow the big play. Make Iowa run 15 plays to get downfield if neccesary, but no easy TD's. Banks carries the ball like a loaf of bread and he will lay it on the carpet if you play with the intent of stripping him every chance you get. He was stripped twice on consecutive 2nd half posessions against Iowa State. I'd set a team goal of creating three or more fumbles in this game and taking at least two of those balls away from Iowa.
The Hawkeyes have certainly piled up some very gaudy statistics so far this year. 489 yards and 41 points per game are great numbers, but you have to wonder how much is due to the level of competition they have played against. Here is something to consider, of Iowa's 32 plays of 20 or more yards this year so far, 13 came against Akron, 5 against Utah State, 7 against Miami of Ohio, and 6 against Iowa State.
If you take out the Akron game as an anomaly, the Hawkeyes are averaging 6 20+ yard plays per game against the trio of Miami of Ohio, Utah State, and Iowa State. Of the six against Iowa State, I don't believe a single one came in the second half of that game.
So how good is this Iowa offense? I guess we will find out Saturday.
Special Teams
Nate Kaeding (right, Eric Gay AP) is an all Big10 type kicker. He now owns two streaks of 11 consecutive FG's made and he has recently connected from 49 and 51 yards, so distance is not a problem. Kaeding has also converted 58 consecutive PAT's. He almost never misses.
David Bradley is averaging more than 42 yards per punt and has dropped several inside the opponents' 20-yard line. He's also done this with good hang time which has limited the return game in the process. This is a very good kicking team.
Iowa's return teams have been inconsistent and have fumbled the ball on multiple occasions this year.
The Iowa Defense (limited review)
The Iowa front four is led by 6'2" 300lbs. Sr. Colin Cole at DT. Their ends are smallish by Big10 standards.
Fred Barr leads the LB corps at MLB and was an honorable mention all Big10 pick last year. He's a nice athlete that runs and tackles well. The other LB's are 6'2" 238lbs. Grant Steen on the strongside and 6'2" 235lbs. Kevin Worthy on the weak side.
In the secondary Iowa will have stellar strong safety Bob Sanders (left, Charlie Niebergall AP) leading the way. Sanders is a tough player who can and will rock anyone if given half the chance. He's short at 5' 8", but he packs a real wallop.
Jr. Derek Pagel is at free safety. Iowa uses 160lbs. true freshman Antwan Allen at one corner and they rotate Sr. D.J. Johnson and 165lbs. true freshman Jovon Johnson at the other corner spot. Penn State fans may recall Jovon as the 3rd best cornerback on the PA squad in the Big33 game this past summer.
This defense has two big playmakers in Barr and Sanders.
The Hawkeyes have been stingy in run defense, but have surrendered a lot of passing yards so far.  However, much of that might be attributable to teams having to pass to catch up as Iowa has jumped out in front in every game they have played.
Iowa likes to play a base 4-3/Cover 2, and they stuck with that scheme much of the time even when Utah State went to three WR sets this past weekend. I don't believe they will stay in that defense against a Penn State 3 WR set though. I believe they'll go nickel against us like everyone else has, because if they don't Mills will pick them to pieces as our WR's would get open against that set.
This is a basically sound defense that plays assignments very well, but they don't have play makers in numbers. Penn State should really be able to get what they want on this defense.
The Call
Iowa will get a lot of yards and should also score some points on Penn State. They block too well to expect us to shut them down. But I would expect to wear them down with relentless pressure up front. Penn State can sub in 5 DE's and 4 DT's in this game to accomplish this goal. Look for PSU to create one or more turnovers in this game.
On offense we should hope to not turn the ball over ourselves and score plenty enough to beat a real good solid Iowa team.

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