You like defense? Iowa 7, Penn State 5 at halftime
IOWA CITY, Ia. — There was no way this Saturday's contest between could look like the bizarre, 2004 game in which Iowa beat Penn State, 6-4, right?
Well, Iowa leads, 7-5, at halftime. Not too far off.
The Hawkeyes jumped ahead with 37 seconds left in the half with Nate Stanley's 21-yard touchdown pass to Nick Easley. Josey Jewell intercepted Trace McSorley's pass and returned it 33 yards to Iowa's 21 on the previous play.
That was about the only offense we saw from Iowa in half No. 1.
Here's what we learned so far:
Penn State has emphatically won the battles in the trenches: Plenty of pressure on Stanley and minimal space for Akrum Wadley to run mean one thing: Penn State's defensive line is bullying Iowa's offensive line. Wadley has mustered zero yards on 10 carries so far; he entered the game averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Stanley completed just 5 of 12 passes for 48 yards (he didn't get much help from his receivers). He wasn't sacked, but he played in a regularly collapsing pocket.
Iowa's defense is legit tonight: Penn State gained nearly four times more yardage than Iowa in the first half, yet it trails. It's offense has been on the field for 19:30 (compared to Iowa's 10:30), yet it trails. The Nittany Lions began their seven possessions on Iowa's 45, their 33, their 40, Iowa's 38, their 35 and their 6, and the Hawkeyes' defense forced them into three punts, two field-goal attempts, a turnover on downs and an interception.
Penn State owning the special teams contest: So, Penn State's winning the offensive battle. Iowa's probably winning the defensive battle. And Penn State's definitely winning the special teams battle. Hawkeyes punter Colten Rastetter has one great, 52-yard boot, and another that pinned Penn State at its 6 late in the second quarter. Other than that, his punts have traveled 35 yards, 31 yards and 32 yards. Nittany Lions punter Blake Gilliken pinned Iowa inside its 10-yard line on all three of his punts, including a 39-yard punt to the 1, which set up Penn State's safety score.
Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBain_.