Iowa Football: Top Five Hawkeye Heart-Stopping Finishes Vs. Penn State

JA AllenSenior Writer ISeptember 26, 2010

Iowa Football: Top Five Hawkeye Heart-Stopping Finishes Vs. Penn State

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Iowa vs. Penn State rivalry in college football has ballooned in importance, especially in recent years as Iowa continues to roll out one impressive football team after another.

    Penn State has the storied football past, having cemented its place in the upper echelons of successful college football programs.

    In the early years, Penn State owned Iowa, winning five of their first seven meetings.

    Iowa won twice prior to 1980, in 1930 and again in 1976.  

    Many felt Penn State would dominate the conference when the Nittany Lions became a full-fledged member of the Big Ten in 1993. After all, Penn State had won National Championships in 1982 and again in 1986.  

    The Lions did win the Big Ten conference title in 1994 with a perfect 12-0 season. They won it again in 2005, going 11-1, and in 2008 when they tied for first place with Ohio State. The Nittany Lions' only conference loss in 2008 came against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

    During the Hayden Fry years (1979-98), Iowa played Penn State six times, twice in 1983-1984 when Penn State was an Independent, and four times as Big Ten opponents. Iowa won twice, in 1983 and then again in 1996.  

Iowa Vs. Penn State: Putting The Rivalry In Perspective

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    When Kirk Ferentz came to Iowa, the dominance by Penn State began to wane. 

    In fact, in the nine times the two teams have met during the Ferentz era at Iowa (1999-present), the Hawkeyes hold a decided advantage, winning seven of nine or 78 percent of the games played.

    This year marks the 23rd meeting of Iowa vs. Penn State on the football field. To date they are tied at 11 each in the series.  

    Starting in 2000, Iowa has won all but once––losing to the Nittany Lions in 2007.

    Since Penn State’s entry into the Big Ten, against the Iowa Hawkeyes, the visiting team has won eight of their 13 meetings.

    The last time came in 2009, when Iowa defeated Penn State in Beaver Stadium under the lights, 21-7.

    Surveying the game stats, it is evident that when Penn State wins, they win big and when they lose, it is usually very close. 

    For example, in their five wins over Iowa since joining the Big Ten, their average winning margin is 25.8 points. In their eight losses, the average losing margin is 5.75 points.

    The largest losing margin was in 2009, when Iowa won by 14 points. Twice Penn State lost by one point, once by two, and once by three.

    So what can we glean by these facts? Perhaps that when it is close, Iowa finds a way to win.

    That said––Penn State had better score big if they expect to win this contest on Saturday because just take a look at what happens when Iowa stays close...

1996: Iowa 21, Penn State 20

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    Tim Dwight
    Tim Dwight

    The Date: 10/19/1996. The Place: Beaver Stadium. The Coaches: Joe Paterno vs. Hayden Fry.

    It was raining and cold. Penn State was ranked No. 10 in the AP Poll, while Iowa was listed in the “others receiving votes” category after being knocked off earlier in the season by Tulsa. 

    Iowa had not been applauded much of late, and had not defeated a Top 10 team in the previous six seasons.  

    The stands appeared mostly deserted for a home Penn State game as the teams tried to duke it out in the mud, moving the chains more by slipping and sliding into downs, often suffering from miscues. 

    It seemed at times that more yardage was awarded on penalties than gained on the ground.

    It took special plays to break Iowa out of the mud-fest and propel them into the end zone. Tim Dwight, the speedster, who thrilled fans during his playing days at Iowa, scored on an 83-yard punt return.

    But that was nothing compared to the contribution of a redshirt freshman, Rob Thein.

    Hayden Fry, who loved to practice sleight of hand, used Thein to engineer one of his patented trick plays to foil Paterno’s Nittany Lions late in the contest.

1996: Iowa 21, Penn State 20 (2)

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    Sedric Shaw
    Sedric Shaw

    Early in the fourth quarter, with Penn State clinging to a 20-14 lead, Iowa recovered a fumble as Wally Richardson, Penn State’s quarterback, was sacked by Iowa safety Kerry Cooks. 

    Jared Devries fell on the ball at the Penn State 33-yard line.

    Now, Fry had devised a special halfback pass play for just such an occasion. Halfback Thein had practiced this one play for weeks waiting for the right moment.

    In his entire football career, Thein had thrown one pass in a game and it had fallen incomplete. During the process of preparing for this occasion, Thein had become known as “One-Play Rob” to the coaching staff. 

    With Thein sitting on the bench until that moment, Fry called upon the halfback to win the game for the Hawkeyes. Thein’s pass was not a thing of beauty, referred to by commentators as a “wounded duck” as it wafted through the air. 

    But it was caught by Demo Odems on the Penn State eight-yard line. Tavian Banks barreled his way through two tacklers and scored subsequently. Zach Bromert kicked the PAT and Iowa led, 21-20.

    That is when the potent Iowa defense clamped down on Penn State hard. In fact, Penn State did not score at all in the second half and Iowa escaped with a one-point victory.

2000: Iowa 26, Penn State 23 (2 OTs)

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    The Date: 11/4/2000. The Place: Beaver Stadium. The Coaches: Kirk Ferentz vs. Joe Paterno.

    The year 2000 was not a good one for the Iowa Hawkeyes, nor the Penn State Nittany Lions.

    Penn State ended the year at 5-7, 4-4 in the Big Ten. Iowa, in its second season under Kirk Ferentz, ended the year 3-9, 3-5 in the Big Ten.

    Both teams were rebuilding or reloading, depending on your point of view.

    The Hawkeyes started off the scoring when Iowa quarterback Kyle McCann threw a pass to Kahlil Hill for a touchdown, and Nate Kaeding kicked the extra point. That was all the scoring in the first quarter. 

    The second quarter brought a trio of field goals, with Kaeding adding two for Iowa (48 and 49 yards respectively), and Ryan Primanti adding one (42 yards) for Penn State. Iowa led at the half, 13-3.

    The third quarter was pretty much a defensive struggle, although Primanti managed another 32-yard field goal to inch closer, with Iowa holding on, 13-6. 

    The fourth quarter brought a new surge from the Nittany Lions, and they scored on a two-yard toss from Penn State quarterback Rashard Casey to John Gilmore for their first touchdown of the day, with Primanti adding the extra point. The score was now tied at 13-13.  

    Kaeding added another 46-yard field goal for Iowa to send the score to 16-13. Primanti sent the game into overtime when he kicked a 28-yard field goal with 2:59 left in the fourth quarter, tying the score at 16-16.

2000: Iowa 26, Penn State 23 (2 OTs) (2)

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    Nate Kaeding
    Nate Kaeding

    Penn State's kicker Primanti, who had made three field goals on the afternoon, had a chance to win the game on the last play of regulation, but his 56-yard attempt fell just short.

    Penn State QB Casey had a six-yard touchdown run to give Penn State a 23-16 lead in the first overtime. But the Hawkeyes answered with an 11-yard touchdown run by Ladell Betts.

    Kaeding kicked a 26-yard field goal in the second overtime.  Rashard Casey's pass on the first play of Penn State's possession was intended for tight end Tony Stewart.

    It hit him, but Ryan Hansen dived to catch the ball, intercepting the pass to give visiting Iowa a 26-23 victory over Penn State.

    Casey had a career day before the interception, setting personal bests with 27 completions on 51 attempts for 302 yards, and one interception.

    Kyle McCann threw for 232 yards with one touchdown, and one interception for the Hawkeyes, and Betts had 25 carries for 101 yards.

    For Penn State, it was another agonizing defeat.

    The win for Iowa stopped its losing skid at three games. It was a defining game for the Iowa defense, with most of the offense coming on the toe of a fine Iowa kicker, Nate Kaeding.

2002: Iowa 42, Penn State 35 (1 OT)

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    Brad Banks
    Brad Banks

    The Date: 9/22/2002. The Place: Beaver Stadium. The Coaches: Kirk Ferentz vs. Joe Paterno.

    Once again, the Nittany Lions seemed to underestimate the Hawkeyes in the fan-friendly environs of Beaver Stadium.

    The Nittany Lions were such gregarious hosts that they spotted the lower-ranked, unanimously anointed underdog Hawkeyes three touchdowns.

    As the game progressed, coach Joe Paterno suffered that sinking feeling once again. It appeared that his team had forgotten how to execute simple pass patterns, and how to run between tacklers. 

    Penn State turned the ball over twice in the first 22 minutes––giving the Hawkeyes two touchdowns and the Nittany Lions their worst first-quarter performance in almost a decade.

    At halftime, Penn State was down, 26-7.  

    Then, all at once, the Nittany Lions sprung to life with a little over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. They were down, 35-13, at that point. 

    Penn State stormed back, scoring 22 points to force the game into overtime.

    Big Lion tailback Larry Johnson got things rolling when he nabbed a screen pass from quarterback Zack Mills, rambling 36 yards for a touchdown.

2002: Iowa 42, Penn State 35 (1 OT) (2)

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    Fred Russell
    Fred Russell

    Some real heroics and gutsy play sealed the comeback for the Nittany Lions, who tied it up to the chagrin of the Iowa team and their fans. 

    The Hawkeyes had figured—somewhat prematurely—that they had done enough to win this game in Happy Valley.  

    Now, there was more to do in overtime. But the Hawkeyes did it. 

    Under fire, Iowa quarterback Brad Banks threw a six-yard completion to C.J. Jones to take the Hawkeyes up 42-35. This time Penn State could not answer the call, and the game ended.

    Once again, the underrated Hawkeyes defeated Penn State in Beaver Stadium. 

    Iowa had outstanding play on the afternoon by running back Fred Russell, who amassed 142 hard-earned rushing yards, and by vaunted tight end Dallas Clark, who caught four passes for 88 yards and seemed to own the center of the field.  

    As Joe Paterno chased officials off the field, complaining about certain calls, the curtain fell on another heart-stopper between Penn State and Iowa.

2004: Iowa 6, Penn State 4

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    Kyle Schlicher
    Kyle Schlicher

    The Date: 10/23/2004. The Place: Beaver Stadium: The Coaches: Kirk Ferentz vs. Joe Paterno.

    The only accurate way to describe this game is ugly––unless you are jazzed by defensive struggles––like down in the trenches for inches instead of yards in a mano e mano struggle for supremacy on the line. 

    So it was on this Saturday in 2002, as Penn State scored four points on two safeties and No. 25-ranked Iowa scored six points with two field goals. 

    It goes down in the books as one of the strangest football contests on record in this series and maybe in the annals of football weirdness.

    Iowa was having a fairly decent season while Penn State found itself mired in mediocrity. Both teams had great defenses, but suffered from pretty sparse talent and inconsistency on offense.  

    It started out with a bizarre scenario on Penn State’s first possession of the game. Iowa had lined up to punt the ball when the snap sailed over the head of punter David Bradley, landing in the end zone.  Bradley kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone to score the safety.  

    The whole game was sandwiched between two safeties for the Nittany Lions––at the beginning and the end of the game.

    The Hawkeyes went up 3-2 when Iowa kicker Kyle Schlicher booted a 27-yard field goal through the uprights at the end of the first quarter to cap a 15-play drive. In the second quarter, Sean Considine intercepted a pass by Zack Mills, returning it 53 yards to set up Schlicher's second field goal, also a 27-yarder. 

    Iowa led, 6-2, going into halftime.

2004: Iowa 6, Penn State 4 (2)

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    Kyle Schlicher
    Kyle Schlicher

    The game, to this point, had been far from pretty––very far. 

    In the second half, behind the leadership of quarterback Drew Tate, Iowa managed only three first downs––all of them coming in the fourth quarter as the two teams tried to breathe some life into this contest.

    But as bad as Iowa was, Penn State was worse on offense. Inside the Iowa 10-yard line twice in the second half, Penn State failed to score.

    Penn State’s Robbie Gould missed a 25-yard field goal wide to the left in the third quarter––should have been a gimme but not on that Saturday.

    Then Iowa corner Antwan Allen intercepted a Michael Robinson pass on the 1-yard line. Late in the fourth quarter, the Penn State defense had Iowa pinned deep in their own territory.

    In fact, the Hawkeyes, unable to advance the ball, were forced to punt the ball out of their own end zone.

    At that point, Ferentz decided to take the safety instead of trying to punt the ball out of the end zone because in his estimation, punting the ball almost guaranteed Penn State three points, and maybe more. 

    He took the gamble that the Iowa defense could stop Penn State one more time. So Iowa took the safety and the score moved to Iowa 6, Penn State 4.

    That is where it ended.  On their first play, Robinson’s pass was intercepted by Iowa’s Jovon Johnson and that ended the game. 

    Football devotees loved this game—most fans found it boring and Penn State’s Paterno’s reputation continued to come under fire.  

    But a great coach like Paterno doesn’t sweat the small stuff or the mean stuff, he just keeps finding ways to win games.

2008: Iowa 24, Penn State 23

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    The Date: 11/8/2008. The Place: Kinnick Stadium. The Coaches: Joe Paterno vs. Kirk Ferentz.

    There was talk of a national championship in the offing––for Penn State, that is.

    Penn State was basking in the glow of having defeated perennial power Ohio State, 13-6, on October 25. 

    The Nittany Lions had the previous week off before facing the Hawkeyes in Kinnick Stadium.  

    Iowa had suffered four losses––at Pittsburgh, at Michigan State, at Illinois and at home against Northwestern. They'd also managed five wins to date.

    Ricky Stanzi had taken over the quarterbacking duties and, with the running game of Shonn Greene clicking, Iowa's quarterback began to find the end zone on a more regular basis. 

    Still, it was going to be tough to defeat nationally ranked Penn State, even playing at home.

    It was cold and blustery, sitting in the stands watching as the undefeated Nittany Lions stormed onto the field.

    No. 3-ranked Penn State stood at 10-0 coming into the contest against Iowa.

    Iowa found themselves in a 23-14 deficit as the fourth quarter began. When Greene scored his second touchdown, suddenly Iowa had closed the gap to within two points, 23-21, with nine-and-a-half minutes left to play.

    During the game, Greene managed to rush for another 100-plus yards while Stanzi redeemed himself, overcoming an interception and a fumble to lead Iowa down the field on their final drive after Penn State QB Daryll Clark threw his third interception of the season.

2008: Iowa 24, Penn State 23 (2)

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    Mitch King
    Mitch King

    This led to the last-gasp drama at the end of the game.

    One second was left on the clock with light beginning to fade. The entire college football world watched as Iowa kicker Daniel Murray’s 31-yard field goal sort of flip-flopped through the uprights, giving the Hawkeyes the one-point victory.

    The kick seen 'round the world was enough to send the Lion faithful into shock and consternation.

    Before this game, an undefeated Penn State looked like a possible contender for the national title game in what many felt would be Joe Paterno’s exit music from Happy Valley.

    But it was not to be.

    Iowa ended the season in a January 1 Bowl––the Outback Bowl against South Carolina—which the Hawkeyes won, 31-10, ending with a 9-4 record and a No. 20 AP ranking. 

    Penn State ended their season tied with Ohio State for the Big Ten conference title with an 11-2 record, 7-1 in the Big Ten. 

    Penn State played USC in the Rose Bowl, which they lost, 38-24. 

The Iowa Vs. Penn State Series Continues: 2010?

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    Iowa and Penn State, beginning next year, will not be in the same Big Ten conference division, although the two are scheduled to play against each other in 2011 and 2012. 

    With Nebraska entering the Big Ten, the dynamics of conference rivalries will shift. The full impact of the new alignment, however, will not be realized immediately.

    Since entering the Big Ten Conference in 1993, Penn State has losing records against Michigan (5-10), Ohio State (12-13), and Wisconsin (6-8).

    The Nittany Lions are currently tied with Iowa (11-11). Both Ohio State and Wisconsin will be division rivals with Penn State––but not Iowa.

    The outcome of the game between Iowa and Penn State on October 2, 2010 is still unresolved. No doubt, Iowa will be favored as the higher-ranked team playing at home in Kinnick Stadium.

    But we have learned that those pesky incidentals really have no meaning when Iowa plays Penn State under the lights at homecoming. 

    After the game on Saturday, one team will inch ahead of the other in total wins––but probably, not for long. 

    The thing is––these football coaching legends at Penn State and more recently at Iowa are good at finding ways to win––even when the odds are not in their team's favor. 

    Will that be true this year?