Iowa-Penn State: A Changing of the Guard in the Big Ten

JA AllenSenior Writer ISeptember 28, 2009

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes talks with Ricky Stanzi #12 while playing the Penn State Nittnay Lions  on September 26, 2009 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Iowa won the game 21-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It was Saturday night. The night of the big game.

After watching offensive-minded teams struggle all day long in a deluge that seemed to blanket the nation, Iowa fans were concerned to see sheets of rain pouring down on the Iowa Hawkeyes as they took the field at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, home of the No. 5-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions.  

Steeped in the mantra of the strength of the Iowa defense, Iowa fans settled in front of widescreen televisions, anticipating a long, brutal, defensive contest. The game was being broadcast to a national audience with the showdown hyped all day.

On Penn State’s first offensive play, the vaunted Iowa defense gave up a 79-yard touchdown—on a long pass from Daryll Clark to Chaz Powell. Iowa fans stirred uneasily in their overstuffed chairs, looking at the replay just to make sure. This was no way for Iowa’s defense to set the tone for the night.  

Immediately, Penn State took a 7-0 lead. The Lions' white-faced fans danced joyously in the stands as Iowa reeled.  

Penn State scored again—a field goal to take it to 10-0, holding Iowa scoreless at the end of the first quarter. Iowa fans continued to squirm but did not desert their easy chairs, assured that Iowa would find a way to come back against the Nittany Lions. 

Penn State dominated in the first quarter as Iowa’s offense sputtered and died without much consistency and poor communications. The rain did not help. Penn State also monopolized the clock, in control of the ball 10:30 of the first 15 minutes.   

With that abrupt slap in the face, the Iowa defense sprung to life. The first quarter proved to be all she wrote for the Penn State offense for the rest of the night. The Nittany Lions did not revisit the opposition’s end zone carrying or catching the football.

In the second quarter, the Iowa defense made its presence known with special teams pinning the Lions deep in their own territory and Broderick Binns sacking Penn State quarterback Clark in the end zone, with the resulting fumble and recovery giving Iowa a safety.

Shortly thereafter, Daniel Murray kicked a field goal and Iowa came back to within five of the Nittany Lions. Iowa marched down the field to the 42-yard line just before the half ended and attempted another field goal, which sailed wide right. 

The Hawkeyes dominated the second quarter, owning the clock 10 minutes of 15, rolling up seven first downs and 124 yards while Penn State had no first downs and minus yardage.

The third quarter remained scoreless with Penn State hanging on to its narrow advantage.

The fourth quarter was where Iowa blew the game open. It all started with a blocked punt from defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who returned the ball over 50 yards for the score. Iowa pulled ahead, 11-10. The two-point conversion attempt by Iowa failed as the Penn State defense sacked Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

The defense did it again when linebacker Pat Angerer pulled in an errant throw off the fingertips of running back Evan Royster, returning it to the Penn State 24. Iowa’s Adam Robinson ran it in after three running plays and with Daniel Murray’s successful PAT, Iowa found itself with a more comfortable lead, 18-10.  

After kicking the ball off to Penn State and a decent return, Iowa got called for a late hit out of bounds. That moved the ball down to the Iowa 36-yard line. It looked like Penn State was not finished yet.  

Angerer, however, caused a fumble on the 19-yard line that was reeled in by Karl Klug. Iowa began the process of eating up the clock—running the ball for tough, hard fought short gains.  

Penn State finally got the ball back, beginning a drive on its own 30-yard line. The drive ended shortly as A.J. Edds intercepted another Clark pass. Iowa continued to grind it out, ending the game with eight seconds left on the clock and Daniel Murray kicking a field goal. Iowa won, 21-10.  

Iowa’s defense caused four costly turnovers in the second half while contributing nine points directly to the total with the safety by Binns and the blocked punt by Clayborn. Defensive coordinator Norm Parker’s boys rushed, harassed and generally made life miserable for Daryll Clark and the suspect Penn State offensive line.

The Iowa offense suffered because the precision required was missing in the rain with the lack of footing and slippery hands. Passes that were delivered right on the money were dropped unexpectedly.

But the Iowa offense continues to improve, week by week. It has potential to become as effective on its side of the ball as the Iowa defense is on the other.

Iowa now stands 4-0 and 1-0 in the Big Ten Conference. The Hawkeyes knocked off the No. 5 team in the nation on the road. In fact, they have two road wins already this year. Soaring in the polls, Iowa comes in at No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25 after the victory over Penn State.  

The Nittany Lions slipped to No. 15. That leaves Ohio State (No. 9) as the only Big Ten team higher in the polls than the Hawkeyes. Michigan is ranked No. 23.  

Preseason, Iowa came in at No. 22 but fell out of the rankings when it barely escaped Northern Iowa in its season opener at home.  

The Hawkeyes proved that they are legitimate on Saturday night facing a national television audience, a stadium filled with over 109,000 white-clad, loud, and unforgiving students and hometown fans, as well as ABC announcers Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit, who finally conceded what Iowa fans knew all along...Iowa is the real deal in 2009.  

As the Iowa faithful celebrated in their living rooms at the conclusion of the game, relieved and re-energized, they recalled that special victory at home last year when Iowa upset the nationally ranked and unbeaten Nittany Lions.  

Finally, it seems the Hawkeyes have that down pat. Next year, maybe Iowa will be favored. This year we have to assume that Happy Valley is waiting for Beaver Stadium to dry out, for the sun to shine again, and for the white-clad students to find their way home...

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!