Penn State beat Iowa at its own game on Saturday in front a sold-out crowd at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions rushed for 230 yards, took care of the football and suffocated the Hawkeye offense in a 13-3 victory. It was the first time since 2007 that Iowa has been beaten by double figures and it also was the first time in four years since Iowa has not scored a touchdown.
“They just did a better job of handling the critical situations,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We couldn’t match their tempo. Credit goes to them. We knew they we were a good defensive team and they showed it today. It was probably their best defensive game of the year.”
Fresh off the bye week, the Hawkeyes looked lost on offense. Before the bye week, the offense had scored 30 or more points in the first four games and looked as if it was moving toward a big season in 2011.
The Penn State defense had other ideas.
Even without their best player in linebacker Michael Mauti, the Nittany Lions recorded five sacks, held the Iowa running game to just 84 yards and put junior QB James Vandenberg in uncomfortable situations all day long. Vandenberg finished just 17-of-34 through the air for 169 yards. He also threw more interceptions (2) in the game than he had thrown in the first four games combined (1).
On the flip side, Penn State’s offense was Penn State. Run the ball, play conservative and don’t beat yourself. That recipe — which has been Iowa’s recipe during the Ferentz era — was better than Iowa on Saturday. The Nittany Lions rushed for 230 yards and kept the ball away from Iowa’s potent offense.
Sometimes it is just not your day. And that may have been the case today. The balls were bouncing the way of Penn State in the first half as the Nittany Lions caught three deflected balls on their first two possessions of the game. One of those deflections came off a referees foot.
Even with that, Penn State only led 6-3 at halftime and most Iowa fans were still feeling pretty good about the game.
Then the Iowa defense starting getting gashed in the running game. Penn State sophomore Silas Redd rushed 28 times for 142 yards and the backup running back gained 60 yards on nine carries. The play up front on both sides of the ball may have been the difference in the game.
“We looked good early. We moved the ball on the first two drives but couldn’t finish,” said Ferentz, who is now 7-4 in games against Penn State coach Joe Paterno. “In the second half, we just never got into a rhythm. Our defense couldn’t get off the field, and the offense couldn’t stay on it.”
The Iowa offensive line gave up five sacks and could not open up holes for sophomore Marcus Coker, who finished with 74 yards on 18 carries.
Ferentz likes to have his running backs carry into the 20s. That usually spells good things for Iowa. He does not like to have his QB sling it 34 times. That usually means they are losing, as he said after the Pittsburgh win.
Today, 34 passing attempts led to 253 total yards, three turnovers and five sacks. It also played into Penn State’s gameplan of keeping the offense off the field.
Penn State finished with 394 yards despite playing with two quarterbacks throughout the game. Matt McGloin was the most effective, going 12-of-19 through the air for 133 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He and sophomore QB Rob Bolden relied heavily on the running game, which garnered nearly more yards than Iowa’s entire offense.
The Nittany Lions are 5-1 on the season and 2-0 in the Big Ten Conference. Penn State has a Big Ten championship defense but needs to score more points to be able to stay in the running.
As for Iowa, the Hawkeyes will lick their wounds and try to regroup for a rare night game at Kinnick Stadium next Saturday against Northwestern in Iowa City. While Iowa had owned Penn State in recent years, it has not been so fortunate against Northwestern and Dan Persa. The game kicks off at 6 p.m and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.
“We have a team that’s capable of growing. Each time out, we have to get better,” Ferentz said. “We have to learn. If we do that, we’ll become a better football team. That’s where our focus is.”