Penn State Beats Iowa on Final Play Behind Saquon Barkley's Huge Performance

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2017

IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 23:  Running back Saquon Barkley #26 of the Penn State Nittany Lions rushes up field during the second quarter past linebackers Josey Jewell #43 and Ben Niemann #44 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on September 23, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.  (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Kinnick Stadium has been kryptonite to Top Five teams, but the No. 4 Penn State Nittany Lions had Superman on their side Saturday night.

After Heisman Trophy hopeful Saquon Barkley set the tone with 305 yards from scrimmage, quarterback Trace McSorley played hero when he found Juwan Johnson for a game-winning seven-yard touchdown as time expired to hand the Nittany Lions a 21-19 win in Iowa City.

While the scoreboard suggested a tight-knit affair, the stats told a different story.

The Nittany Lions outgained the Hawkeyes 579-273 overall, and they posted a whopping 295-82 edge on the ground.

Barkley shredded the Hawkeyes front seven with several of his signature jump-cuts, hurdles and hesitation moves en route to a career-high 211 rushing yards, marking the first time since the opener against Akron that he cracked the century mark.

Barkley also hauled in a team-high 12 catches for 94 yards as McSorley's preferred target.

That performance evoked reactions loaded with praise from all corners of Twitter:

And yet, for all of Barkley's brilliance, the Nittany Lions couldn't pull away.

The first half was a particular slog.

Penn State settled for a 19-yard field goal on its third drive, and trips to the red zone largely proved elusive before halftime.

That was a problem, because a McSorley interception with 43 seconds remaining in the second quarter set up a 21-yard Nathan Stanley touchdown pass to Nick Easley on the next play, as ESPN's official Twitter account documented:

A field goal plus Barkley's eight-yard scoring scamper helped propel Penn State back in front by eight midway through the third quarter.

But as was the case in the first half, the Nittany Lions couldn't parlay chunk gains into points that would have provided peace of mind.

That became an issue early in the fourth quarter when Stanley (13-of-22, 191 yards) found running back Akrum Wadley in the middle of the field for a 70-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to two.

A blocked field goal by Anthony Nelson with 2:39 remaining kept that scoreline intact, and at that point, the floodgates opened as the Hawkeyes required just three plays to find paydirt when Wadley gashed PSU's defense for a 35-yard score to go up 19-15, as ESPN documented on Twitter:

But with McSorley and Barkley leading the charge, that lead wouldn't last.

Penn State ran 12 plays over the final 1:42, and McSorley's calm under pressure allowed the Nittany Lions to remain undefeated entering Week 5.

Now 4-0, Penn State will head back to Happy Valley as it prepares to host the Indiana Hoosiers at Beaver Stadium.

Iowa, meanwhile, will attempt to bounce back on the road against the Michigan State Spartans.