Creature vs. Creature: A Nittany Lion on Penn State-Iowa

Isaac LuberSenior Analyst ISeptember 23, 2009

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Daryll Clark #17 of the Penn State Nittany Lions scrambles out of the pocket during a game against the Temple Owls on September 19, 2009 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

Last year, the Nittany Lions travelled to Kinnick Stadium and faced a tough Iowa team.  Penn State dominated the first half, but Iowa started to make a comeback.  Penn State's Lydell Sargeant missed an interception on a second down, and Iowa took advantage to score on that possession.  Iowa was able to make it 23-21 with several minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Clark and the Nittany Lions were driving down the field with only a few minutes left.  Penn State wanted to end the game with a couple more first downs, but when Clark stepped back to pass one play, it was intercepted by a Hawkeye defender.

Penn State was plagued by a pass interference call on Scirrotto on third down when the ball probably wouldn't have been caught if he would of laid off of the receiver.  This helped Iowa's drive stay alive, and their quarterback Stanzi kept his composure and got Iowa in field goal range with just seconds to go.

This is when the upset occurred.  A 31-yard field goal went straight through the uprights, with one second to go, to give Iowa the 24-23 upset victory over the No. 3 Nittany Lions.

My brother had safety Mark Rubin for an interview at JP Morgan, where he works, after the regular season.  He asked Rubin what happened in the Iowa game, and he basically said as the stadium got colder in the second half, the players were unable to move on the sidelines and froze on the field, hurting their performance. 

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This was because Joe Paterno thought heaters would weaken Penn State, and they should tough it out.  Well, if you saw the Michigan State game, there were heaters all over Penn State's sideline.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Now Iowa won that game fair and square, and I am not making excuses, but with heaters things may have been different.

My brother also said to Rubin that he better win the Rose Bowl or he's not getting a job...he didn't get the job.

Now, to this year's game...

Penn State will win if...

They can continue their established success in the running game.

Against Akron and Syracuse, Penn State was unable to run.  This is largely because these teams were putting eight and nine men in the box, but also because the offensive linemen would go off their blocks to block the next level of defenders too early, leaving the defensive line time to stop running back Evan Royster for little gain.

Against Temple, they were able to run very successfully, and had 186 rush yards, with Royster accounting for 134 of them, 119 of which he had in the first half.  They were able to run because Temple was usually only putting seven men in the box, and sometimes eight. 

They were also pass blitzing, so it made it easier to run traps, counters, and draws.  Also, Penn State's offensive line was also staying on their blocks, allowing Royster to get to the second level, where he, being a talented back, can make moves and break tackles in the open field to get more yardage.

Against Iowa, they have to play this way.  They have to be able to establish the run to get to the pass, not the other way around.  Clark didn't have many passing yards because of the rushing success, which for once, is a good thing.

The combination of Royster's agility and ability to break tackles, along with Green's speed and improved power and downhill ability, Penn State should hopefully be able to run successfully on Iowa, which will be important if they have a lead in the fourth quarter.

Their defense tackles better.

The tackling in the preseason games has been pathetic to say the least.  There have been way too many missed tackles on running and passing plays this season.  Penn State needs to not tackle sloppy.

Sean Lee is the only player so far this year that has made virtually every tackle he was involved with.  Everyone else has been a mediocre tackle, and the secondary has been awful at tackling.

Big Ten teams like Iowa will easily shed off those arm tackles, and if we can't tackle Akron, we won't be able to tackle Iowa.  The defense has to tackle much better by making hard, solid tackles if they plan on containing Iowa's power offense and winning this game.

Penn State will lose if...

They fail to move the ball.

Penn State has struggled moving the ball against mediocre teams.  They have had many three and outs, turnovers, and punts.  Also, in the red zone, they have scored just over 50 percent of the time, which is pathetic compared to last year where they had a nearly perfect red-zone scoring percentage.

In the red zone, Penn State has turned it over on downs and by actual turnovers multiple times, and they're playing teams like Syracuse.  If Penn State is unable to move the ball on Iowa, and has turnovers in and out of the red zone, they will not win this game.

The secondary gets beat.

Penn State's secondary is consistently mediocre at best.  They get beat by fast receivers and great route-running receivers.  They are also very small, and usually cannot make tackles. They also usually play in a zone coverage where they leave the field wide open and give the receiver 10 yards of clearance to catch and run with the ball.

Penn State's secondary doesn't have to play right on the receivers, but they should be close enough where they can break up or intercept a pass, as well as be able to put a hit on the receiver to make a tackle or try and knock the ball free.

If Penn State's defense lets Iowa pass all over them and through them like they allowed to Syracuse and Akron who had several big pass plays and once each game the receiver completely beat the secondary for a touchdown, Iowa will pick on the secondary all day. 

Even though Stanzi is not a great quarterback, he is good enough to beat a secondary who is leaving the receivers wide open.  Penn State's secondary needs to cover and tackle better.


Special teams.

If Penn State wants to really help their chances of winning, they have to win the special teams battle.  Their kick-off coverage has been awful so far, they allow many run backs to go past the 35 or 40 yard line.  If they allow Iowa to do this, Iowa will keep the Nittany Lions pinned deep in their own territory all day.  Penn State has also been pathetic at returning kicks, not taking many past the 30.

Penn State, however, does win the punting battle.  Their punting, unlike their kick-offs, is great.  Jeremy Boone is possibly an All-American and future pro punter.  He always seems to get a long, beautiful kick that pins the opponents deep in their territory.

Whoever wins the special teams battle and the field position battle will have an advantage in this game.


This game is homecoming for many fraternities, so many more alums will be there cheering harder than ever.  This is a revenge game, so it will be jam-packed and everyone will be blood-thirsty after what Iowa did to us last year.  To add to that, it is the Game Day crew's game, and that always puts a big spotlight on it and makes more fans show up.

To make sure every die-hard Penn State fan is there, it is also a night game.  And finally, to make sure all of those fans are more pumped than they ever have been before, it's the WHITEHOUSE!  All of these factors help Penn State's home-field advantage severely, which could help them out a lot.


Last year, Penn State came into Iowa after a huge win over Ohio State.  They had National Championship in their eyes.  They may have possibly been looking past the final three games to the Championship, as many teams would after the biggest win of the season that usually determines your season.

Instead of taking the games one by one, it seemed they took them by get past these and we'll be going to the National Championship.

Penn State, after losing to Iowa, took the games one by one.

Still, this year, Penn State wants revenge.  The team wants revenge, the school wants revenge, and the fans want revenge.  Penn State does not forget, they remember what happened, and now they are thirsty for some Hawkeye blood.  They will avenge themselves. They will not stop attacking Iowa until they pound them six feet into the ground. 

However, as much as everyone would like to see a crushing of Iowa, this will be more of a defensive battle, and Iowa still is a decent team.  I hope we crush them, but I see a closer game.

Penn State Nittany Lions: 27

Iowa Hawkeyes: 16



See a Hawkeye's take on the game by reading Kevin Trahan's article here.


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