Iowa Football

No. 10 Penn State 17, No. 17 Iowa 12: Without blocking, it's hard to have TDs

Penn State's defense left a mark on the Hawkeyes, who pulled out all of the motivational stops

IOWA CITY — The Hawkeyes put everything into this.

Of course, there were the gold uniforms. The UI called for fans to “stripe” the stadium. It worked. Kinnick Stadium was bathed in black-and-gold stripes.

Three F-35s buzzed the stadium during the national anthem. It was the “America Needs Farmers” game. The 2009 Orange Bowl team was honored, with many of the mainstays from that 11-2 team showing up and waving to the crowd.

Ricky Stanzi, the ringleader and quarterback of that 2009 team, was the honorary captain. His talk with the team on Friday implored the Hawkeyes to hunt with spears and eat.

They forgot blocking. And touchdowns. When you’re playing No. 10 in the country, you need to pack plenty of those.

It probably wasn’t fun for you in the fourth quarter trying to figure out the last time the No. 17 Hawkeyes scored a TD against a Big Ten opponent. It was just a field goal last week at Michigan. Add the fourth quarter of the Rutgers game, all the way back in week 2 on Sept. 7, and it was eight quarters without a TD against a Big Ten team in the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s 17-12 loss before 69,034 fans.

The Nittany Lions (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) almost made it nine. Quarterback Nate Stanley’s 33-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Smith snapped the streak with 2:31 left in the fourth quarter.

The 2-point pass failed and then, on third-and-3 from PSU’s 32, after the Hawkeyes exhausted their timeouts, running back Noah Cain crashed up the middle for a 5-yard gain and that was that.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Cursory big-picture read for Iowa: The Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-2) are going to need help to stay in the Big Ten West race.

Iowa needs to beat Wisconsin with a Badgers loss vs. Ohio State on Oct. 26. Iowa needs to beat Minnesota and have the Gophers lose another game somewhere.

It’s hard to put any stock into that after the way the offense has performed the last two games.

Yes, ranked teams the last two weeks, but a team with any real championship agenda doesn’t go eight quarters without a touchdown.

Cain’s 5-yard TD run with 5:17 left in the game sealed the deal. Two scores with Iowa’s offensive performance the last two weeks was asking too much.

The Hawkeyes drive chart in the second half went punt, fumble, punt and interception before Smith’s TD.

Iowa was held to less than 100 rushing yards for the second week and is now 1-8 in games vs. ranked teams in the last three seasons. Penn State head coach James Franklin snapped an 0-for-6 streak against ranked teams on the road.

Iowa’s offensive line dealt with injuries well, but then the competition ramped up. Against Michigan and Penn State, the group has not held up.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The raggedness Iowa showed in pass protection against Michigan last week was there again this week. Sophomore Mark Kallenberger got the start at guard for Levi Paulsen. Defensive tackle Robert Windsor killed Iowa’s first drive of the second half, running past Landan Paulsen and center Tyler Linderbaum.

Iowa was better at picking up blitzes than a week ago, but Stanley was forced to move and struggled to find time and make plays with his feet.

Iowa’s defense played well enough to make this a four-quarter game. The Hawkeyes trailed 10-6 going into the fourth. But Stanley took a hit and threw a pick that ended up being Cain’s TD and the final nail.

The Iowa offense had good runs in the first half. It also had too many bad plays. The inconsistency has to be driving everyone mad.

Down 7-3 with 1:46 left and a first down at its 11, the Hawkeyes pushed off shore with the help of a holding call on Penn State’s secondary.

Next play, Stanley threw a perfect seam ball to tight end Nate Wieting for a 25-yard gain. Next play, Stanley to Wieting again for 11 yards and a first down at Penn State’s 40.

The Lions dialed up the blitz. Just like last week, the hits piled up on Stanley. But on third-and-10 from the 40, Stanley dropped a perfect pass over the defender on a stop-and-go route to wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette for 36 yards to Penn State’s 4.

And then the inconsistency.

Iowa tried to go tempo. When the Hawkeyes come out of a big play and go tempo, it’s usually a run. Penn State was ready and Mekhi Sargent was dropped for a 1-yard loss.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

After a timeout, Stanley missed outside to Smith, who beat his defensive back to the inside. Stanley had a blitzer in his face. On third down, Stanley ran out of time and threw out of bounds.

Keith Duncan’s 26-yard field goal pulled the Hawkeyes within 7-6 with 20 seconds left in the first half.

Penn State took a 7-3 lead on QB Sean Clifford’s 22-yard pass to wide receiver K.J. Hamler with 8:36 left in the second quarter. The play was a third-and-7 and the Hawkeyes were in base defense, matching Hamler, who entered Saturday’s game averaging 18.2 yards on 22 touches, on linebacker Nick Niemann, who nearly made a play trying to undercut the route. Hamler leapt into a pile and landed just inside the pylon.

Penn State had a chance to go up 14-6 in the third quarter. Clifford hit tight end Pat Freiermuth for what appeared to be a TD. The play went up for review and was reversed. It was still a 15-yard gain to Iowa’s 1, but from there, the Lions were hit with a pair of holding penalties and had to settle for Jake Pinegar’s 33-yard field goal and a 10-6 lead with 2:08 left in the third quarter.

So, the Hawkeyes had life. But without blocking, there weren’t going to be enough touchdowns.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.