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Never A Doubt: Penn State Flips Iowa, 41 to 14

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Iowa got the better of Penn State in the past 15 years. Tonight was not one of those nights.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

You know the story. Iowa has won eight of the last 11 games. Iowa somehow always finds a way to beat ranked Penn State teams. Iowa just finds ways to drag Penn State down to its level, and takes advantage of the Nittany Lions’ own mistakes to come out victorious. It almost looked like it would be a repeat of one of those dreary nights. Penn State came out swinging in their first drive, quickly scoring a touchdown on aggressive plays. In the ensuing drives, the Nittany Lions couldn’t convert on third down and settled for a field goal, only to have it blocked by the Hawkeyes.

Iowa benefited from a slew of penalties against Penn State. Two facemasks and a kick-catch interference early in the game gave Iowa good field position to start. Fortunately for the Lions, Iowa didn’t come away with any points in any of those drives.

It looked as if this would turn into another slugfest where Penn State would need to perfect football in order to squeak out a win. Fortunately for the Lions, and our hearts, they started to wake up as the game went on. With a little over 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Saquon Barkley turned what would have been a respectable gain into a 57-yard touchdown play, using his patented shiftiness to avoid would-be tacklers and take it to the house.

After another Iowa failed drive, Penn State drove right down the field yet again to widen its lead, but Iowa would put themselves on the board finally with a long, methodical drive of their own. The Lions slowed down the tempo to close the half, and took a 17-point lead to the locker rooms.

The second half started like the first for the Hawkeyes, where a personal foul penalty took a dire field position situation into a workable position, handing Iowa another 15 yards on a call many thought was not deserved. Once again, however, the Hawkeyes were not able to take advantage of the gift, as the Lions forced Iowa to punt. Evan Schwan sacked C.J. Beathard on 3rd and 10, and the hole kept growing and growing for our friends in Black and Gold.

This game was very reminiscent of the 2012 contest. Nobody really knew what to make of the game. Iowa wasn’t a world beater, but they were a solid squad with a winning record and the ability to grind out games. They had a history of doing just that to the Lions, but when the game rolled around, it was a completely different story. In fact, the halftime score was almost the same as that fateful night, only difference is Iowa found themselves on the board at halftime. James Franklin brought a similar game plan to that of former Head Coach Bill O’Brien. The Lions attacked early and often, spreading the field while forcing the Hawkeyes to respect Trace McSorley’s legs along the way. Even the end was so similar to that of 2012. Once the game was well in hand, Iowa was able to put a score on the board to make the game look closer than it really was.

Focusing on Barkley for a second, he has now reached 1,000 yards in two straight seasons as a Nittany Lion. And in both years, he accomplished the feat in nine games. With 167 yards on the ground and 44 through the air, Barkley turned in another great performance against a solid defense. With at least four more games left, Barkley has an opportunity to reach 1500 rushing yards before the end of the year.

It’s become quite clear that this team is not at all the same team we left for dead a little over a month ago in Ann Arbor. Thinking back on the words from both McSorley and Mike Gesicki, you can now really appreciate the passion and desire these guys showed after that game, and the fruits of their hard labor are finally starting to ripen.

Three Key Takeaways

1) Barkley’s show. - Saquon Barkley has been nothing but phenomenal over the past few weeks for the Nittany Lions. The sophomore running back has amassed over 200 yards of offense in back to back games, and has already eclipsed the 1000-yard mark on the ground in nine games.

2) This team is different. - That light switched that flipped in the second half of the Minnesota game has turned this team into a force to be reckoned with. Right about now I’m wishing for that Pitt game to be played at the end of the season instead of week 2.

3) New Year’s Happiness. - With the tumbles at the top of the College Football Playoff standings, Penn State can sneak into the top ten next week. They will be in good position to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game if they continue to take care of business.

Looking Ahead

Penn State travels to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers next Saturday. Indiana is not a pushover this season, but the Nittany Lions will need to remain focused if they don’t want to be the next victim of the Chaos Team™. Game time and network to be determined.