They don't have to worry anymore, as No. 3 Penn State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) knocked itself out of title contention with a sloppy 24-23 loss to the Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3). Make no mistake; Iowa made some clutch plays down the stretch to eventually win on Daniel Murray's 31-yard field goal.
But the Nittany Lions spent the entire game shooting themselves in the foot, and would have won going away if they took advantage of a first half in which they dominated time of possession.
And in the second half, State led by nine twice — 16-7 and 23-14 — before coming completely unglued in the fourth quarter.
Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from the windy afternoon.
MAN OF THE HOUR: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi did not seem to be impacted by the windy conditions, connecting on 15 of 25 passes for 171 yards and a score. He was especially effective on the Hawkeyes' game-winning drive.
CLOSE SECOND: Iowa running back Shon Greene ran for 117 yards and two scores against a PSU defensive designed to stop the run.
TURNING POINT 1: The first came when the Lions faced third-and-24 from the Iowa 37 with about four minutes left. PSU quarterback Daryll Clark, who seemed flustered by the wind all day, threw a deep pass for Derrick Williams but missed him. Tyler Sash intercepted at his own 15 and returned 14 yards to give the Hawkeyes possession at their own 29 on what would be the winning drive.
TURNING POINT 2: On that drive, Penn State had Iowa in a third-and-15 from its own 24. Stanzi aired out a pass for wideout Trey Stross, and Lion safety Anthony Scirrotto appeared to cleanly swat it away. But Scirrotto was called for pass interference, keeping the drive alive.
SOLID STRATEGY: The Hawkeyes counted on Stanzi to get things done in the clutch and he came through. After the PI, he was 4 of 7 against a soft PSU defense.
NUMBERS GAME: Penn State had a 23:34-6:26 time-of-possession edge and ran 47 offensive plays to Iowa's 15 in the first half. Yet the Lions only led 13-7 at the break. It came back to bite them.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: PSU running back Evan Royster ran hard, despite occasional breakdowns by the Lion offensive line that resulted in him being thrown for 17 yards in losses. He finished with 90 yards rushing to go over 1,000 for the season.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Amazing to think that in the windy conditions, the kickers from both teams were perfect on field goals and extra points.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
The officiating was bad both ways. As bad as the PI on Scirrotto appeared to be, the Lions received a gift earlier when Iowa was called for flagrantly roughing PSU punter Jeremy Boone.
Clark played his worst game as a starter. He was 9 of 23 for 83 yards and the pick. But in fairness to him
Lion guard Rich Ohrnberger was called for holding twice, including one killer on what would turn out to be State's final drive.
We thought another key play in this game happened early in the fourth quarter, when Williams failed to field an Iowa punt and the ball rolled to the PSU 11. The Lions were going into the wind, and that play flipped field position at a key moment. Up 23-14, PSU was went three and out and a short Boone punt into the wind gave the Hawkeyes the ball at the Lion 44. Greene ran in a touchdown six plays later to cut the lead to 23-21.
The officials spotted — and replay somehow confirmed — the ball at the PSU 1-yard following a fumble by Clark early in the first quarter. Sure seemed like the ball rolled into the end zone before everyone piled on.
HIT SQUAD: The Hawkeye defensive line and linebackers were all over Clark on State's opening series in the game, drilling him three straight times.
BEST BLOCK: Fullback Dan Lawlor did a nice job all day. He was at his best late in the third quarter, wiping out Sash on a 9-yard pickup by Royster.
HIDDEN HERO: Boone, who doubles as a holder, did a great job of dealing with a bad snap on Kevin Kelly's 25-yard field goal in the third quarter. The score gave PSU a 16-7 lead.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Defensive tackle Jared Odrick continued to shine, with seven tackles and a pair of sacks.
DID YOU NOTICE?
• Penn State went with a Wildcat formation multiple times in the game, with Williams taking over as a shotgun quarterback and Clark moving to wideout. It worked well most of the time. Williams rushed for 53 yards and completed a 23-yard pass to tight end Mickey Shuler in the fourth quarter. But the Lions went to the old well once too often. Later in the drive in which Shuler made the catch, Williams was thrown for a three-yard loss while running out of the formation.
PSU flipped-flopped its starting offensive guards, with Stefen Wisniewkski starting on the left and Ohrnberger starting the left. Lion coach Joe Paterno said the move was made to allow the Penn State line to better match up with the Iowa defensive line.
Penn State starting defensive end Josh Ggaines did not play in the final quarter due to an ankle injury. He was replaced by true freshman Jack Crawford.
Late on Iowa's game-winning drive, PSU starting linebacker Tyrell Sales was pulled in favor of true freshman Mike Mauti.
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS: Can the Lions bounce back from this tough loss? Or is this 1999 all over again?