Football Takes Winning Streak to Iowa

Story posted October 19, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Matt Lawrence

The Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) return to action following a bye week and head to the unpleasant confines of Kinnick Stadium to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions have not beaten the Hawkeyes in Iowa City since 1999.

Over the past decade, fans have sensed a rivalry between the two teams. Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes have taken eight of the past ten contests, including the last second 24-23 victory in 2008 that spoiled Penn State's national title hopes.

"We hate them," Penn State senior cornerback Stephon Morris posted on Twitter earlier this week. "They hate us."

The tweet drew attention from a number of media outlets, and head coach Bill O'Brien was blunt in his thoughts on the issue Tuesday.

"You know what I hate?" he said. "I hate Twitter."

The big news coming out of Iowa City this week is that starting running back Mark Weisman has indeed been cleared to play. Weisman has been the major source of offense for the Hawkeyes scoring eight touchdowns on the ground. He was injured with a high ankle sprain in last weekend’s 19-16 victory over Michigan State. How much Weisman will play, and how effective he will be is yet to be seen, but doctors have cleared him and he will be available for Ferentz.

Penn State is riding a four game winning streak following two losses to Ohio and Virginia. O'Brien has become the talk of the college football world and is many analysts’ early season front-runner for national coach of the year. The Nittany Lions have been hampered by injuries in the first half of the year, but coming off a bye week, many players have had an opportunity to rest for the remaining six games.

O’Brien says that running back Bill Belton is close to 100 percent after an ankle sprain has limited his early season playing time. Left tackle Donovan Smith is also expected to start, but will once again be playing with a wrapped left hand.

With the emergence of sophomore running back Zack Zwinak, look for Belton to possibly be used more in his traditional slot-receiver position. Zwinak is coming off back-to-back 100 yard rushing performances against Temple and Northwestern. He’s much more of an every-down, punishing back that will allow Belton to be used in the open field similar to last season.

Nobody would have thought that heading in to the eighth week of the season, quarterback Matt McGloin would be the premiere passer in the Big Ten. But McGloin has done just that through the first six games. He currently leads all Big Ten passers in yards (250 ypg) and touchdowns (12). McGloin has also added five rushing scores and has only thrown two interceptions.

On the flip side, Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg has appeared to relapse after a 3,000-yard junior campaign. Vandenberg has only thrown two touchdowns all season, which makes the uncertainty around Weisman that much more important. Against a questionable Penn State defensive backfield, Vandenberg will be forced to air it out if the Hawkeyes want to have success against one of the top rush defenses in conference.

A Penn State victory Saturday night would set up a much-anticipated clash with Ohio State next week. Both teams, despite being ineligible for postseason play, are continuing to play for the Leaders Division crown. Many believe that with a “White House” game looming, this is a classic trap game for the Nittany Lions. But a win in Kinnick Stadium is never easy, as the Hawkeyes have won over 80 percent of their home games since 2000.

Penn State and Iowa kick off at 8 p.m. Saturday night. That game will be broadcast live on ComRadio, beginning with pregame coverage at 5:30 p.m. Tune in at psucomradio.com.

Matt Lawrence is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email mdl5249@psu.edu.