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IOWA CITY — Everyone is telling the Hawkeyes good job. The Hawkeyes have a quick response.
“I’ll look at my phone in 10 minutes and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of texts from friends and family back home,” Iowa offensive lineman Sean Welsh said. “Regardless of what happened tonight, it wasn’t good enough. It might’ve been a good game, but we didn’t come out on top.”
Running back Akrum Wadley’s 70-yard touchdown catch-and-run was gorgeous, especially given the fact the Hawkeyes finally made Penn State pay for blitzing. Wadley’s 35-yard run on an inside zone might deserve its own mural. It definitely have Iowa a 19-15 lead with 1:42 left in the game.
Line up all of the stellar efforts from Iowa’s defense. They reach pretty high, don’t they? And is that linebacker Josey Jewell at the top? It should be. Jewell finished with 16 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, two pass breakups and an interception.
“I think anyone who saw the game realizes we easily could’ve won it,” junior defensive end Parker Hesse said. “We were almost there. We had the game in our hands. We weren’t able to come away with it.”
In the end, you were entertained by Saturday night’s sublime finish between No. 4 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) and the Hawkeyes (3-1, 0-1).
The Nittany Lions needed every second. Quarterback Trace McSorley hit wide receiver Juwan Johnson for a 7-yard TD as time ran out in PSU’s 21-19 victory at Kinnick Stadium before 66,205 fans Saturday night.
Stack all of the positives Iowa found late in this thing. The offense finally found away from PSU’s relentless blitz. Quarterback Nate Stanley hung in the pocket and finally victimized a blitz, with Wadley streaking past linebacker Jason Cabinda for a 70-yard TD that pulled Iowa to within 15-13 with 10:02 left in the fourth quarter.
Another finally for Iowa’s offense was Wadley’s 35-yarder that gave Iowa the lead 19-15 with 1:42. Iowa’s running game to this point contributed as much to the Hawkeyes’ effort as the goal posts did. But there it was, Iowa getting it when it needed it, Wadley delivering when it had to happen and the Hawkeyes were almost home.
“Some games, you get off early, some games it takes time,” said Wadley, who finished with 80 yards and a TD on 19 carries and led the Hawkeyes with four catches for 75 yards and a TD. “I have 100 percent faith in what the coaches call. I have faith in the line and wide receivers blocking downfield 100 percent.
“We just got going a little later than what we imagined.”
Iowa’s offense came alive in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes’ defense allowed a 295 rushing yards and 579 total. Still, it wasn’t easy to score for Penn State. Again and again Saturday night, Iowa’s defense played firetruck to the offense’s firebug. Iowa punted its first four drives and then on its fifth, Wadley was tackled in Iowa’s end zone by Penn State defensive end Shareef Miller for 5-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Hawkeyes went from treading water and allowing a safety to a fourth-quarter lead with 1:42 left against the No. 4 team in the country, the defending Big Ten champion and a team that hung a 41-14 black eye on them last November.
The statistics said blowout. The Hawkeyes said nuh uh.
“Our guys fought, simple as that,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s the beautiful thing about football.”
So you stack all of the positives that Iowa patched together late — and for Iowa’s defense, it was early, late and most of the game — and Penn State’s stack of goodness is just that much higher.
Running back Saquon Barkley can pretty much plan on being in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. He rushed for 211 yards and a TD. He caught 12 passes for 94 yards. He is 5-11, 230 pounds and moves like a special effect.
“I cannot imagine that there’s a better player in college football,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years and this guy is special. I don’t know what his stats were or what he did, but every time he touched the ball, I don’t care if it was a 20-yard run or an 8-yard run, it was something special, it really was.”
Stacking the last Penn State thing that on the top of Penn State’s pile was quarterback Trace McSorley’s game-winner. Look at the replay of McSorley’s 7-yarder to wide receiver Juwan Johnson. It took the perfect line drive to make it through a carwash of Iowa secondary players.
With it being fourth down-and-everything-on-the-line, Iowa got out of its comfort zone and played man-to-man with a Jewell and linebacker Ben Niemann blitzing.
McSorley saw the window open and got the ball into Johnson before Iowa could close it.
“The guy made a good throw, he’s a good quarterback,” Iowa safety Amani Hooker said. “He just made a play.”
McSorley’s pass finished a 12-play, 80-yard drive.
Did that drive remind anyone of anything? Maybe the 2015 Big Ten championship game against Michigan State? The 22-play marathon that took a running back’s outstretched arm to keep the Hawkeyes from a Big Ten championship?
“It was eerily similar,” Welsh said.
The Hawkeyes will be in East Lansing, Mich., this weekend. Once again, they will be stacking as many positives as they can and maybe this time it will be enough for them to tolerate and maybe even enjoy a few “good jobs.”
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