The No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes opened up Big Ten conference play against the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium in search of their first conference championship since 1985. Iowa sent a strong message that they are for real and that their conference foes will have to go through them to win the Big Ten title.
Iowa's offense started off strong, getting the ball first and having no problems moving downfield, with quarterback Ricky Stanzi passing to Marvin McNutt twice for a combined 37 yards and running back Adam Robinson rushing for 17 yards. The Hawkeyes drive stalled in their opponent's red zone after failing to convert on third down and had to settle for a field goal, taking the lead 3-0.
The stingy Hawkeyes defense started early and held Penn State to a three-and-out on their first possession, forcing their opponent to punt. Iowa's defense continued to dominate the Penn State running game through the first quarter, stopping the Nittany Lions from sustaining any sort of drive. Penn State was unable get a first down until almost three minutes into the second quarter.
Iowa's offense rolled through the first half as both their rushing and passing games were seemingly unstoppable. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw a touchdown to wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos with just over one minute remaining in the first quarter, and Iowa scored another touchdown on a run by Stanzi from the their opponent's one-yard line.
It wasn't until the following possession that Penn State was able to piece together a drive down the field and get their offense clicking. A 49-yard pass from quarterback Robert Bolden to Brent Brackett set the Nittany Lions up with a 1st-and-goal at Iowa's two-yard line. But they were forced to settle for a field goal after a delay of game penalty in the closing seconds of the first half.
At halftime, the Hawkeyes had accumulated 235 total yards of offense, with Ricky Stanzi completing 12-of-15 passing attempts for 143 yards and Adam Robinson rushing for 92 yards. After being dominated by the aggressive Iowa defense for most of the first half, Penn State was held to only 134 total yards of offense and just six first downs.
Penn State started off the third quarter strong, meticulously moving the ball all the way to the Hawkeyes one-yard line, much to the credit of a strong passing attack from the arm of quarterback Robert Bolden. The drive, taking more than seven minutes, stalled after a failure to convert on fourth down, with the Nittany Lions coming up empty-handed.
The defensive squads of both teams dominated the remainder of the third quarter as neither was able to put together a scoring drive and was forced to punt often.
The struggles on offense finally came to a head with less than two minutes to play, when Iowa's Shaun Prater intercepted Penn State quarterback Robert Bolden's pass and returned it for a touchdown from the Nittany Lions 34-yard line, sealing the victory for Iowa, 24-3.
The Iowa win is credited to its defensive unit. which held Penn State to a total of 54 rushing yards and quarterback Robert Bolden to 247 passing yards and completions on 22 of his 42 passing attempts.
On the other side of the ball, the Hawkeyes offense accumulated a total of 349 yards, with quarterback Ricky Stanzi passing for 227 yards and completing 16 of his 22 passing attempts. Iowa's notorious running game clicked on all cylinders, as running back Adam Robinson rushed 36 times for 122 yards.
After starting Big Ten Conference play with a win, the Hawkeyes head into a bye week before playing Michigan on the road in Ann Arbor in two weeks.
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