Game Grades: Penn State vs Iowa
Penn State was finally able to put a ranked opponent away in the fourth quarter on Saturday as it defeated Iowa 30-24. Let’s take a look at each unit and hand out grades based on how they performed on Saturday.
It was an interesting day offensively for Penn State. The Nittany Lions started the game off slow but after a few stalled drives they were able to get the wheels rolling. Trace McSorley had a lackluster day passing the ball, going 11/25 for 167 yards, throwing one touchdown pass and a bad interception that was returned for a touchdown.
McSorley left the game for a few drives with an injury. In his place, Tommy Stevens took over and found the end zone on the ground. Stevens completed two of his four throws for 27 yards.
Miles Sanders rushed the ball 17 times for 62 yards, while McSorley ran 12 times for 63 yards, including a long 51-yard touchdown run. The Iowa defense did a good job of slowing down the Penn State rushing attack as the Nittany Lions averaged only 3.4 yards per carry.
As we saw against Michigan State and Ohio State, Penn State was unable to put Iowa away offensively. On its last offensive possession Penn State faced a third and four, and rather than throwing the ball, they rushed up the middle for no gain. It was an interesting play call where Penn State had the chance to not give the ball back to Iowa with a first down but instead burned some clock and asked its defense to make one last stop.
Overall, Penn State’s defense played a good game. There were some missed tackles, but they slowed down Iowa’s offense for the most part. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley was held to under 50 percent completion rate, going 18 of 49 for 205 yards.
Penn State’s defense also came away with two very big interceptions on the day. John Reid came up with one in the second quarter that set up Penn State on the Iowa three-yard line. It seemed Reid’s interception swung the momentum in this game.
Then with Iowa down six and inside Penn State’s ten-yard line, Stanley saw himself under pressure and tried to get the ball into the flat where safety Nick Scott came away with the huge pick.
On the last drive, Penn State did what it was unable to do against Ohio State and Michigan State, and that is close the door and earn the win. This time, the defense came up big and on fourth and ten with seven seconds left, Stanley was hit and lost the football, not allowing Iowa any chance at throwing the ball to the end zone.
Special Teams: C-
It was a day of extremes for Penn State’s special teams. Punter Blake Gillikin mishandled a snap leading to a safety and then had a ball snapped over his head for another safety. Iowa also converted a fake field goal for a touchdown.
Now for the positives. Freshman kicker Jake Pinegar had the best game of his young career, going three for three on field goals, making a long of 49-yards. Rafael Checa did a good job of putting the ball through the end zone and limiting Iowa’s return game.
One of the issues surrounding this Penn State team was its lack of energy and focus following the loss to Ohio State. That issue seemed resolved today as Penn State’s energy levels were up throughout the game.
The play calling was decent, as it has been for most of the season. But the biggest question mark came down the stretch. As previously mentioned, the third and four on Penn State’s last drive where it opted against passing the ball.
If Penn State completes that pass for a first down, then the game is over. Instead, Iowa had a chance to come down and win the game. Thankfully, this time the defense forced a stop. But if the defense did not come up big, then there would have been a lot more questions surrounding James Franklin and the Penn State coaching staff going forward.
Jake Starr is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.