My Grades for Penn State against Iowa

At last! A review that I can thoroughly enjoy writing from beginning to end, even the Indiana State and Eastern Michigan games, as great as I thought we did, had some concerns such as the two sacks and one fumbled snap against Indiana State and the 110 rushing yards against Eastern Michigan. Generally, I hate eating crow, but this one was so well cooked and delicious that I can't help but be happy that I got my prediction wrong for Penn State against Iowa this week. This time around, the only real criticism is that seven points were left on the board. But we didn't need to score a whole bunch, if we needed to score more, we were right in position late in the game to easily score on that Iowa defense that our O-Line had been feasting on all game long. And that's especially signifficant because this isn't like the Illinois defense in 2009 or the Michigan defense last year, this is a solid Iowa defense that just isn't as good as they were last year, kind of like comparing 2007 Michigan to 2006 Michigan. But what I was really impressed by was the defense. This was the best example of BBDS (for the first half, that is, there wasn't really much BBDS in the second half to speak of) I had seen since the 1987 Fiesta Bowl where Testeverde threw five interceptions. Of course, some people aren't satisfied, but we know that. There was an article on the LA Times from 1-3-87 talking about how "bad" both teams looked playing for the national title.

Week One's grades against Indiana State
Week Two's grades against Alabama
Week Three's grades against Temple
Week Four's grades against Eastern Michigan
Week Five's grades against Indiana

Overall - A-: This was the most dominant ten point win I can remember. Last week they talked about a ten point blowout, but this week we got exactly that. The differences between this week and last week seem to be the attitude Penn State had coming out. Had this team came out the same way they did against Indiana or Temple, this would have been a loss reminiscent of last year's 24-3 debacle in Iowa City. But this year, the Nittany Lions refuse to lose, snap a three game winning streak and Iowa's dominant run of 8 of the last 9. This win didn't come easy, but with the way the defense played, I wasn't nearly as worried as I was in other years, including 2008. I'd never felt so comfortable seeing my team hold onto a 3 point lead as I was this week. I only got the fourth quarter on the radio because I had to be at a cousin's wedding reception at that time, but I felt like I was there, especially on 4th and 39 when Vandenberg was sacked all the way back at the 1 yard line. The offense came together to finally deliver a knock out punch, using their strengths, and the defense finally showed that it can shut down an efficient pocket passing QB when it had Vandenberg on the run all day.

Offense - B: Given that we scored 13 points, that might be awfully generous. But I'm not about to listen to "but UL-Monroe scored 17". So what. Iowa called off the dogs after going up 28-3 at halftime on the Warhawks, we muzzled their dogs with a combination of Redd and Dukes with a little bit of the passing game sprinkled in. We had the ball for 36 minutes and had almost 400 yards of total offense against a decent but not great rebuilding Hawkeye defense. The only real complaints are the red zone woes. This team came into the game looking to find its offensive identity after scraping past a Hoosiers team whose statsheet you could blow your nose on. And in the 4th quarter, we found it. In the first and second quarters, long, dominant drives ended with just three points apiece. The third quarter ended in yet another irritating red zone flop that had me say "It's not Penn State-Iowa without a costly Nittany Lion mistake" but they bounced right back from it, ran the ball right at Iowa, and went up 13-3. After this, it should be obvious that Bolden is not the guy and unless he can show some third year improvement, he might be a backup his whole career. McGloin is our QB.

Defense - A+: Sure, Iowa had 16 first downs, 169 passing yards, and 258 total yards....wait, that's not exactly impressive stats for them, but anyways, this team deserves a lot of credit for holding Iowa to three points. This was the best example of bend but don't suck that I saw mixed with blitzing at all the right times. This defensive performance is possibly the best I saw all year if we're not including Indiana State as a "real" game. Still and company came at Vandenberg like a bunch of bulls charging a red cloth. The usually accurate Iowa quarterback was left on his rear end most of the game. Our defense managed five sacks, held Iowa to only 84 rushing yards, shut down their passing and running games, holding them to just one field goal in this game. Penn State never once trailed against the Hawkeyes because of the D not allowing them to get much in this game. In the second half, BBDS was replaced by a blitz-heavy defense that you'd expect more out of Dick LeBeau than Tom Bradley. That last Iowa drive was a thing of beauty. No puckering prevent defense allowing a garbage time touchdown, instead Vandenberg was sacked three straight times, at one point all the way back to the 1 by Khari Fortt who is really emerging as a great linebacker. And we can't forget how great Famous Amos is becoming already.

Special Teams - B+: The biggest thing I can say for the special teams unit is that I did not see any mistakes. I saw a few lackluster returns on our part, but that's the only black mark against our special teams unit. We did NOT allow Iowa to run the ball back very far. We did NOT have any blocked or shanked punts. We did NOT muff or fumble on any returns. We ALMOST forced an Iowa turnover on a punt return. We DID pin Iowa deep a few times, espeically late in the fourth quarter. Iowa did NOT return a kickoff beyond the 23. Evan Lewis was NOT our kicker, but instead the guy who ran te fake brilliantly. Anthony Fera DID kick two field goals and an extra point to give us over half of our 13 points. Anthony Fera DID have a lot of booming punts and kickoffs. There WERE a few too many touchbacks but I'll gladly take a touchback over a big return. There WAS great special teams tackling. However, there were NOT any nice returns by us as I said before. Too many fair catches. However, the other components of our much-maligned special teams unit finally stepped up and did what they were supposed to, giving us a nice win over an Iowa team that has tormented us all century (literally).

Gameball goes to - Newspaper clippings: After all the crap people said about Penn State's chances in this game, including John Eichelberger, Cory Giger, and the usually decent Neil Rudel. So many articles in the paper making cruel jokes at Paterno's expense. There was just so much locker room material this week that it would be impossible not to attribute our new attitude coming into the game to that kind of stuff. As far as actual players go, I'd probably give the game ball to both lines, defensive and offensive, but everyone played differently. There's not a doubt in my mind that Penn State was proving a point. And boy, did they ever!

It was over when: Matt McGloin found Kevin Haplea in the end zone to give Penn State a 13-3 cushion. At that point, you knew that all Iowa could hope for was our defense going into a soft prevent mode and allowing them to score a garbage time touchdown. That did not happen because of all the talk after the Indiana touchdown last week. The defense wanted to show everyone, not just their fans, that they can finish off a game the way they started it. I'd say they actually finished off Iowa even better than they played before the last drive.

Next Opponent - Purdue: We really don't have much to worry about here with a Purdue team that lucked out by playing Minnesota and were curb stomped by a so-so Notre Dame team. However, Purdue usually has a way of making the game a little closer than it should be (what is it with teams from Indiana? They can't beat us but they sure can play us close), such as in 2008 for example, we beat them 20-6 but if not for two missed FGs and a missed PAT, it could have very easily been a 20-14 escape over the Boilermakers in Ross-Ade Stadium. Thankfully, this one is being played at home. I think we win, but it's a bit closer than it should be.

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