Ready for a Rematch

After a tough loss at Iowa in 2008, Penn State linebacker Josh Hull is intent not to let it happen again.

Josh Hull's most vivid memory of Penn State's trip to Iowa last year is probably the same as yours. He just had a better view.

“I was on the sideline while the last couple of seconds were ticking away,” said Hull, a junior at the time who was not part of the special teams unit that was looking to block Daniel Murray's last-season field goal attempt. “I was crossing my fingers hoping that we blocked it or the kid missed it. It was just a real feeling of helplessness. There was nothing I could do about it. I just had to watch the ball go through the uprights.”

The Nittany Lions lost, 24-23, on Murray's 31-yard kick, and players left the field dejectedly, while behind them, fans spilled out of Kinnick Stadium's bleachers to celebrate the Hawkeyes' stunning fourth-quarter rally. The defeat spoiled Penn State's national championship hopes.

It also set the stage for a high-intensity rematch when the Hawkeyes visit Beaver Stadium Saturday for both teams' Big Ten opener. There's a pep rally scheduled for Friday night and a “White Out” is on tap for the nationally televised prime time clash, ensuring that the crowd will be in hysterics at kickoff. Penn State hasn't played a night game at home since it defeated Illinois in last year's conference opener, and players are eager to soak up the atmosphere. Said Hull, “It doesn't get any better than an 8 o'clock game in Beaver Stadium.”

But is it possible to have too much fire in your belly? The Nittany Lions can't help but wonder as they prepare for their biggest game so far this season. When they've tried to avenge previous losses to Iowa, things haven't gone so well. The Lions have gone 2-6 against Kirk Ferentz-coached teams, with only one victory in the current decade.

If anything, their perennial struggles against the Hawkeyes are even more inexplicable than the problems they've famously run into against Michigan. The Wolverine teams that had won nine in a row against Penn State before last year's Nittany Lions romp were all bowl-worthy, nationally respected outfits. By contrast, Iowa has beaten Penn State even when it's been down. In 2000, Penn State was one of only three teams the Hawkeyes defeated. The following year, Iowa went 4-4 in the conference but managed to hold off the Lions in Iowa City, 24-18. And last year, the Hawks were scuffling at 5-4 overall and 2-3 in the conference before edging the unbeaten Lions in one of the biggest upsets of the college football season.

So maybe it's not so surprising that the Lions are downplaying the revenge factor heading into the rematch.

“There is a lot of fear in calling this a revenge game,” Hull said. “We're not looking for revenge at all. We went out to Iowa last year and put a solid effort forth, and Iowa did everything they needed to do to beat us. They came out on top. They beat us fair and square. We're doing everything we can in practice to not let that happen again this year.”

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