Hawkeyes get thumped in the night at Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State bills its football program with a single word: "Unrivaled."
If you had to sum up Iowa's play Saturday in a word, it would be: "Unraveled."
The Hawkeyes fell behind the No. 23 Nittany Lions from the outset Saturday and never mounted a challenge in a 41-14 drubbing before an announced crowd of 106,194 at Beaver Stadium.
The tone was set on Penn State’s initial drive, when it needed only six plays to coast 52 yards for a touchdown. The final one was a 19-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley to Saeed Blacknell. Blacknell got behind Iowa cornerback Desmond King in the corner of the end zone, a rare mistake for the reigning Thorpe Award winner.
“He got in my blind spot, couldn’t find him or anything like that, just tried to split the difference between the No. 1 and the No. 2 receiver,” King said.
“I just didn’t do my job as I was supposed to.”
That was contagious. Iowa allowed 599 yards to Penn State (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten Conference), which converted 8-of-15 third and fourth downs and held the ball for 35 minutes.
Sophomore tailback Saquon Barkley carried 20 times for 167 yards and a 57-yard touchdown jaunt that was as artful as Iowa’s defense was miserable. He also caught a 44-yard touchdown pass after running past Hawkeye linebacker Bo Bower on the near sideline, slowing down to taunt Bower as he crossed the goal line.
The Nittany Lions had three other plays that traveled 40 yards or more, with Iowa linebackers frequently the victims.
“There was some stuff that was surprising, but that happens every week, I think. We needed to buckle down and we didn’t today, defensively,” Bower said.
“I’m not sure exactly what the issues are right now. We’re all a team and everyone’s got do a job. Me personally, I made my share of mental mistakes today and so did other people.”
Penn State's second drive ended with a blocked field goal by Iowa's Josey Jewell, a rare highlight on what turned into a long evening.
The Lions scored touchdowns 2 minutes and 30 seconds apart in the second quarter to build a 21-0 lead and put the Hawkeyes (5-4, 3-3) on their heels. The third touchdown came when McSorley ran it in from a yard out one play after completing a 43-yard pass to tight end Mike Gesicki, who again had beaten Bower down the near sideline.
McSorley, also a sophomore, ran 14 times for 40 yards and gained 240 yards on his 11 completions, two for touchdowns.
“We thought we had a good game plan coming in. They outplayed us today,” Jewell said. “We didn’t come to play.”
Finally, Iowa answered with a 75-yard drive capped by a C.J. Beathard screen pass that tailback Akrum Wadley took into the end zone from 12 yards out.
But there were few answers from a Hawkeye offense that failed to gain 300 yards for the fourth time this season. Iowa was 3-of-12 on third and fourth down and no drive lasted longer than 3 minutes, 47 seconds.
“When you go down 21-0, it’s frustrating. We definitely weren’t expecting that,” Beathard said. “A few plays here and there, third-and-short, fourth downs, if we convert those, maybe it’s a different ballgame, you never know,”
Penn State answered on the final drive of the half, getting a 30-yard field goal from Tyler Davis for a 24-7 halftime lead. The Lions outgained Iowa 348-128 in the opening 30 minutes, a staggering number against a defense that had been playing well heading into its bye week.
Davis added a 37-yard field goal with 2:48 remaining in the third quarter to push Penn State's lead to 27-7.
The Nittany Lions sealed the victory on back-to-back plays to begin the fourth quarter. First, Beathard threw a pass directly to Penn State safety Troy Apke. On the next play, McSorley lofted a pass to a wide-open Barkley for the 44-yard score. That made it 34-7 and cemented it as Iowa's worst performance of the season.
Back-up tailback Tommy Stevens scored from 13 yards out to build a 41-7 Penn State lead.
The Hawkeyes closed out the scoring with 6:30 left on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Beathard to Jerminic Smith.
That was little comfort to a Hawkeye team that has lost four games one year after finishing 12-2.
“The season’s not acceptable. This is not what we’re looking for,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
“It’s never been the standard. It will never be the standard.”