Iowa Football

Game Report: Iowa Hawkeyes 41, Penn State Nittany Lions 21

Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent (10) breaks a tackle attempt by Penn State safety Jonathan Sutherland (0) during the fir
Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent (10) breaks a tackle attempt by Penn State safety Jonathan Sutherland (0) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

A closer look at Iowa’s 41-21 win over Penn State on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

Turning point

Season trends are season trends for a reason. They have a way of repeating themselves.

So while Penn State took its first lead since overtime of its season opener against Indiana with Keyvone Lee’s 6-yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter, the second quarter looked more familiar for both teams.

Iowa went up 10-7 on Tyler Goodson’s 10-yard TD run early in the second. On the fourth play of Penn State’s ensuing drive, a Will Levis pitch went behind Lee and Iowa’s Zach VanValkenburg recovered the fumble at the Penn State 41. Three and a half minutes later, the Hawkeyes fittingly pitched the ball to Mekhi Sargent, who easily scored from 1 yard out.

Penn State twice tried to convert fourth downs near midfield in the second quarter and twice was denied. First, Jack Koerner and Nick Niemann stuffed Levis for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the Iowa 39. The Hawkeyes, however, quickly went three-and-out. But the defense gave the offense another chance and it came through. VanValkenburg drove Caziah Holmes back for a loss of 1 on third-and-1, then Levis tossed a fourth-and-2 pass out of bounds and Iowa took over at the Penn State 49 with 53 seconds remaining.

Spencer Petras found Smith-Marsette for an 18-yard gain and completed three more passes for a combined 23 yards. That set up another Sargent 1-yard touchdown run with 11 seconds remaining to put Iowa up 21-0 for the decisive quarter and 24-7 going into halftime.

The Hawkeyes have now outscored opponents 110-35 in first halves this season. Penn State has been outscored 117-33 in first halves.




• Levis made his second career start. He rushed for a team-best 108 yards in a 27-6 win over Rutgers last Nov. 30 and carried the ball seven times for 44 yards on Penn State’s first scoring drive in this game, but Iowa held him to minus-10 yards on the ground the rest of the way. He also lost a third-quarter fumble that was forced by Dane Belton and recovered by VanValkenburg. Levis was 13-of-16 passing for 106 yards.

• Returning starter Sean Clifford replaced Levis in the third quarter and made an immediate impact. His first two passes went for touchdowns, a 28-yarder to Brenton Strange after a Petras fumble and a 68-yard bomb to Jahan Dotson to cut the lead to 31-21. Iowa adjusted after that, limiting Clifford to 11-of-22 for 78 yards while picking off two passes and tallying a pair of sacks.

• VanValkenburg followed up his Defensive Player of the Week performance (three sacks against Minnesota) with 1.5 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.

• Penn State was without tight end Pat Freiermuth, who was on the sideline but not in uniform. He entered the game with a team-best 23 catches. ESPN’s Todd McShay has him as a projected first-round NFL Draft pick ranked No. 26 overall.

• Goodson took direct snaps and handed the ball off twice out of Iowa’s wildcat formation. Sargent picked up a first down with an 8-yard gain on second-and-4 in the first quarter and Ivory Kelly-Martin gained 9 yards on first down in the third quarter.

• Ankeny Centennial graduate Jake Pinegar did not attempt a field goal and was 1 of 2 on extra points for Penn State. Terry Roberts blocked the PAT after Penn State’s second touchdown.

By the numbers

5 — Penn State has lost its first five games for the first time in program history. The Lions will finish the season with a losing record for the first time since 2004 (4-7). They have never gone winless.

6 — Goodson scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season in Iowa’s fifth game. Goodson led the Hawkeyes last season with five rushing touchdowns in 13 games. Likewise, Sargent scored his fifth and sixth rushing TDs of the year Saturday. He had four all of last season.

6 — Penn State’s six-game winning streak in the series ended. The Nittany Lions still hold a 17-13 lead in the series, but the Hawkeyes have won 11 of the 21 Big Ten meetings.

9 Iowa has led at halftime in each of its last nine games. The Hawkeyes are 7-2 in that time.

12 — Iowa picked off at least one pass for the 12th straight game. Chauncey Golston kept the streak alive when he came down with a pass that was tipped by fellow defensive lineman Davyion Nixon in the fourth quarter. But the real highlight came from Nixon himself later in the fourth quarter, when he stepped in front of a Clifford pass and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown with a basketball Euro-step past Clifford along the way. The Hawkeyes rank third in the Big Ten with 10 interceptions this season. Indiana is first with 13.


17 — Iowa linebacker Nick Niemann totaled a career-high 17 tackles. He had 13 in the first half alone. His brother, Ben Niemann’s career high was 13 tackles in 2017 against Wyoming.

41 — The 41 points are the second most Iowa has ever scored against Penn State. The Hawkeyes won 42-34 in 1983 and 42-35 (OT) in 2002.

100 — Kirk Ferentz earned his 100th career Big Ten win. He is the fourth coach to achieve that milestone, joining Ohio State’s Woody Hayes (153), Michigan’s Bo Schembechler (143) and Chicago’s Amos Alonzo Stagg (115). Ferentz is 100-77 in conference play and 165-106 overall at Iowa.


Social summaries

From Twitter

“Never easy, but never in doubt thanks to a ball hawking defense,” — @JAKlindt

“41-21 = 100,” — @mill3416

“We have more wins than Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State combined,” — @timmymac1976

“Nixon wins Pennsylvania!” — @David_M_Ryan

Injury report

Coy Cronk did not play with an ankle injury for the third-straight game. The Indiana transfer opened the season as Iowa’s starter at right tackle.

Guard Kyle Schott missed his third-straight game with mononucleosis. Iowa radio sideline reporter Rob Brooks said pregame he hopes to return next week.

Defensive end John Waggoner was out for the second consecutive week.

Next up

Iowa hosts Nebraska (1-3) on Black Friday at noon (Fox). The Huskers followed up their first win of the season last week against Penn State by getting crushed at home by Illinois on Saturday, 41-23. The Hawkeyes have won five straight in the battle for the Heroes Trophy.

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