Game Recap: Penn State Nittany Lions
- New week, same story. This game was full of missed opportunities by the Iowa offense that wasted a solid performance by the defense. - The fans calling for the benching of Nate Stanley need to pump the brakes. The quarterback can only be blamed for so much when the middle of his offensive line is allowing defenders a free run on what seems like every third play.
- Despite the low scoring output, the offense looked a little better than they did a week ago, and are certainly trending in the right direction.
- Even though they no longer control their own destiny, Iowa still has a legitimate shot at a Big Ten West title. The path to Indianapolis now passes through Madison, Wisconsin and Iowa fans will have to cheer for Ohio State when the Badgers travel to Columbus.
- Although this may be one of the better Iowa defense in recent years, they are not generating many turnovers, which is something that could really help the struggling offense.
- My biggest takeaway is that there are huge question marks on the interior of the offensive line. If they can't answer those questions, a victory against Wisconsin seems like a near impossibility.
Views From the Corner of Kinnick
After mulling it over for a couple of days, this game feels a little bit better than it did late Saturday night. The fanbase is angry, which means there were expectations because of the talent this team has. There is a visceral anger in the fanbase about dropping a game against a Top 10 opponent. There were expectations of a Black and Gold storming of Indianapolis and for many fans they believe those hopes are over. Although the hope isn't gone, this loss certainly makes things more difficult.
This game started slow, with the first two possessions for each team resulting in punts, with Iowa eventually gaining an edge in the battle for field possession. The fifth possession of the game, was an 11 play, 38 yard Iowa drive that resulted in a Keith Duncan 47 yard field goal. The two teams would trade punts before Penn State went on a 15 play, 85 yard touchdown drive that melted nearly six minutes off the clock. The ensuing drive would see Iowa nearly answer on a 8 play drive capped by a missed Keith Duncan field goal attempt. The Hawkeye defense would then step up, forcing a quick stop to set up the offense with an opportunity to take lead before halftime. Nate Stanley seized the opportunity, leading an impressive 84 yard drive in just over 1:20 of game time. Unfortunately, the offense couldn't finish the drive in the endzone, settling for a Keith Duncan field goal from the Penn State 5 yard line and a 7-6 halftime deficit.
Penn State received the second half kick, and despite gaining over 30 yards, started a sequence of 3 consecutive punts, before a Tyler Goodson fumble set Penn State up inside the Iowa 25 yard line. The defense stood tall, allowing only a field goal and holding the Nittany Lions within striking distance at 10-6. The teams would then trade punts before the Nate Stanley would throw his fourth interception in 2 weeks on a play that saw him being hit as he released the ball. Penn State converted the Iowa mistake into a touchdown that would end up being the deciding blow and pushing the score to 17-6. Iowa gave themselves a chance, with the offense mounting a 12 play, 87 yard drive that was capped by a spectacular Brandon Smith catch deep down the right sideline to draw within 5 after a failed 2-pt conversion. Despite playing so well throughout the game, the Iowa defense came up one stop short and were unable to get a stop and give the offense a chance to win the game.
This week's loss, more so than the loss to Michigan, can be traced to a handful of missed opportunities that were there for the taking and the Hawks just didn't finish. The drive at the end of the first half stands out. Iowa had a 1st and Goal from the Penn State 4 yard line and failed to punch the ball in. Having those four points totally changes the complexion of the game, giving the Iowa offense a taste of success that they hadn't felt in nearly six quarters at that pointand giving them some much needed momentum heading to the locker room. Instead, Penn State forced a field goal attempt and flipped the momentum back to their sideline.
Despite the missed opportunities, the offense's performance against the Nittany Lions was better than against Michigan. Iowa outgained Penn State in total yardage, showed decent efficiency on third down (8 for 18), and exceptional efficiency on fourth down (2 for 2). Nate Stanley looked substantially more comfortable than he did against the Wolverines in putting up over 280 yards through the air and a touchdown. He also had a couple of memorable deep throws when Iowa needed them the most, one coming to Ihmir Smith-Marsette on the last drive of the first half and the other being the touchdown pass to Brandon Smith late in the game.
Ultimately, the difference in this game were two areas that you don't expect to be issues with a Kirk Ferentz team, the offensive line and turnovers. Over the last two weeks, the Iowa offensive line has leaked like a sieve, allowing free rushers in pass protection on what seems like every third or fourth play. That, coupled with untimely turnovers, is ultimately to blame for the two game skid Iowa finds itself in. The offensive line will get better, it always seems to under Kirk Ferentz, but they will have to be much, much better for Iowa to compete down the stretch for the Big Ten West and the offense has to do a better job of holding onto the football.
Outside of the long touchdown drive in the first half, the Iowa defense was exceptional in bending but not breaking, allowing just two drives over 50 yards all game. Even in the quick change situations, the Iowa defense held up, allowing only 1 yard following the Goodson fumble and forcing Penn State to go 35 yards over 8 plays following the Stanley pick. The one soft spot that Iowa did show was an inability to stop Penn State on 3rd down, allowing 10 conversions on 19 attempts.
There is not more perfect illustration of this than the game on Saturday. Penn State had two drives that spanned more than 50 yards, the touchdown drive in the first half and a second half drive that resulted in a punt. Outside of those drives, the next longest drive was the 35 yard drive set up by the Nate Stanley punt. Penn State capitalized on both Iowa turnovers, turning them into 10 points in a game where points were extremely hard to come by. Given the same opportunity, its hard to believe that the Iowa offense would not have capitalized.e get going and can help spark confidence throughout a team.
There is not a more perfect illustration of this than the game on Saturday. Penn State had two drives that spanned more than 50 yards, the touchdown drive in the first half and a second half drive that resulted in a punt. Outside of those drives, the next longest drive was the 35 yard drive set up by the Nate Stanley interception. Penn State capitalized on both Iowa turnovers, turning them into 10 points in a game where points were extremely hard to come by. Given the same opportunity, its hard to believe that the Iowa offense would not have capitalized.
Ultimately, this game came down to the middle Iowa's offensive line and a handful of missed opportunities. Iowa failed to record 100 rushing yards in a second consecutive game and allowed Nate Stanley to be sacked 2 more times. Iowa failed to convert a long drive at the end of the 1st half into a touchdown and settled for a field goal. Two Iowa turnovers turned into 10 Penn State points in a game that the Nittany Lions only scored 17 points. This game will sting at season's end because it was there for the taking, much like the Michigan game before it. The best news to come out of this game? It's over and some of the best medicine for this ailing Iowa offense is coming to town in a banged up Purdue Boilermaker defense.
Travis's Player of the Game: Chauncey Golston - 4 Solo Tackles, 4 Assists, 1 Sack, 1.5 Tackles for Loss
Up Next: The Purdue Boilermakers 2-4 (1-2) come to Kinnick Stadium for a Homecoming Weekend clash
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As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!
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