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47 Random Thoughts on Iowa

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Random musings on the weekend that was in State College. Also, #VOTE

NCAA Football: Iowa at Penn State
Michael Robinson v.2, anyone?
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks removed from a White Out so large that it blanketed the top 25, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Iowa Hawkeyes engaged in a contest of American football under the lights of Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Over one hundred and six thousand people were in attendance, mostly clad in white. The Nittany Lions emerged victorious, 41-14. I have some thoughts, which are randomly set forth below.

  1. It’s Election Day in the United States, so you’re going to have to indulge me. Go vote. Vote as early in the day as possible to avoid getting stuck in a long line. If you get stuck in a long line, stand there until you cast your ballot. As a citizen of this country, it is your obligation to lend your voice to the chorus that selects your government.
  2. Cynicism about whether your vote makes a difference ignores the generations of men and women who have sacrifice their lives to ensure you have access to the ballot box. Honor their sacrifice and get to your polling location.
  3. Saturday was just a perfect college football day in Happy Valley. Crisp, but not cold, minimal wind, and no rain. Excellent tailgating weather, which mean watching a good deal of the afternoon games on an outside TV.
  4. By the time the ball was teed up for kickoff, we had already seen several opportunities to move up in the upcoming CFP rankings. By 7:30 p.m., number 11 Florida and number 4 Texas A&M had already lost. An expected Ohio State win over number 10 Nebraska looked like a win against Iowa could mean Penn State was in the top 10 for the first time since 2009.
  5. A word about the crowd - despite its unofficial nature, the vast majority of people understood that a prime time game at Beaver Stadium = “white out.” James Franklin’s subtle hints on Twitter seemed to get the message out perfectly fine.
  6. Apparently the student section has finally gotten the hint that this team is special. Still hoping that Beaver Stadium Operations can get the same hint and find a way to get the students into the stadium on time. Watching the trickle in of students from the morass behind Gate C was as embarrassing as you’d expect. Just fix it.
  7. Still, none of that mattered yet, because most people were concerned about getting past Iowa. Those of us who remember 2002, 2008, and 2009 know about Iowa’s penchant for shattering Nittany Lion dreams.
  8. It was reasonable to worry about Iowa. It was also reasonable to be wonder whether the national press these young Lions had received over the last week would allow them to breathe and unintentionally take their collective feet off the gas.
  9. That question was answered relatively quickly on Saturday night.
  10. Miles Sanders is doing his damnedest to prove me right that he’s going to take a kick return to the house. A 48 yard return was only a cut or two away from turning into a 100-yarder and 6 points.
  11. Special teams has been on point basically all year, and it’s one of the primary reasons this group of Nittany Lions has been able to separate itself from the pack. Going 52 yards is a lot easier than going 75.
  12. Of course, going either 52 or 72 yards is much easier when Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley are in your backfield.
  13. Saeed Blacknall is showing exactly why we were hoping he’d sign with us a few years ago. He’s made big play after big play this year, including the initial touchdown here.
  14. For the record, upon review, the pass later in the game Blacknall laid out for looked incomplete. Heck of an effort, though.
  15. It’s getting to the point where two things happen when Saquon Barkley touches the ball - (a) the crowd rises immediately because they expect him to break a long gain or do something outrageous; (b) if it’s not either of those things, the crowd is somewhat disappointed with only an 8 yard gain.
  16. Yes, only an 8 yard gain. For some perspective, this is a team that lived on Evan Royster, Zack Zwinak, and Mike Zordich grinding out 4-5 yard gains for much of the last decade. No one has seen anything like Barkley since LJ on this campus.
  17. I’m sure I’ll get taken to task for this, but The Truth is the most dynamic play maker in the country since Reggie Bush. The moves are flat out jaw dropping.
  18. Seriously, on Saturday, Barkley hurdled over a defender BACKWARDS. That was probably the most insane thing I’ve ever seen him do, and he didn’t even score on that play.
  19. Lots of conversation since the installation of Penn State’s standard shotgun set that the Nittany Lions just don’t play power football anymore. I beg to differ. You can dominate opposing teams on the lines, whether your offense starts out under center or several yards behind it. Saturday night was a perfect illustration on both sides of the ball.
  20. Consider this - offensively, we converted by rushing either McSorley or Barkley on 2nd and 1, 3rd and 2, and 3rd and 3 in the first quarter. In the second quarter, after Gesicki’s near touchdown was called back to the one yard line, the offense lined up (in shotgun), and McSorley dropped his shoulder and crashed into the end zone.
  21. That doesn’t even account for Tommy Stevens in the fourth quarter, which we will get to in a minute.
  22. On the other side of the ball, the Nittany Lions stopped Iowa on rushing plays on 3rd and 4, 4th and 1, 3rd and 2, and 3rd and 1, all in the first half.
  23. Jason Cabinda played a monster role in making most of those stops. This group of linebackers has managed to become pretty impressive, despite injuries and youth. Take a bow, Brent Pry - these are your guys, and they come through in the clutch.
  24. I was less than pleased with the number of significant penalties that were called throughout the game against the Nittany Lions. Facemask penalties are just lazy. Wrap the guy up and tackle him properly.
  25. The kick catch interference call on Irvin Charles was correct, but silly. Seriously, Irvin, just let him catch the ball.
  26. DeAndre Thompkins should have gotten the benefit of a kick catch interference call that never happened. Franklin certainly let the officials have an earful about that.
  27. The roughing the passer and late hit calls, both against Cabinda, felt cheap. He didn’t exactly bury Beathard into the turf on the roughing call, and Beathard was still in bounds on the late hit. Quarterbacks are still football players. Let’s treat them like one.
  28. I was unimpressed generally with an Iowa offense that I expected to be a bit more impressive. Not that I expected the next coming of the Air Raid, but there was no sense of urgency whatsoever by the Hawkeyes. It was like they had just accepted losing to the Nittany Lions sometime in the middle of the third quarter.
  29. It would be charitable to say that Desmond King had a medicore night. The 2015 All American got beat by Saeed Blacknall on the game’s first touchdown, was shrugged off by Saquon Barkley during the final seconds of #26’s 57-yard touchdown run, and was barreled over by Tommy Stevens on the game’s final touchdown.
  30. I don’t want to wait any longer to talk about Touchdown Tommy Stevens and the play call of the year by Joe Moorhead. Two quarterbacks, one in motion, jet sweep left (with a QB-to-QB exchange), great blocking, and Tebow-esque running. Just beautiful.
  31. I’m still not sure how Iowa didn’t know that was coming. From my seat, I saw Stevens come in the game and immediately said, “Uh, they’re about to do something really weird. We have 2 QBs in the game.” And, of course, Penn State proceeded to do something really weird. Is it possible Iowa didn’t see the same thing?
  32. Trace McSorley has been outstanding, but if he couldn’t play, I’d be comfortable with Tommy filling in.
  33. Here’s the question - two quarterbacks separated by a single year. The elder wins the job and performs well. How do you keep the young guy happy and contributing? This is how.
  34. Kind of reminds me of another redshirt freshman quarterback who came in to shake things up on a pretty good offense - “Mills...the end around to Robinson. Heading for the corner, Robinsooonnnnnnnn...”
  35. The best throw Trace McSorley made all night was the bullet to Thompkins that gained 25 yards. It hit him perfectly in stride between defenders.
  36. A quietly great game from Chris Godwin this week.
  37. What’s going on with Tyler Davis and the low trajectory kicks? Am I missing something?
  38. Lots of people (including me) nervous before the game settled down very quickly after the first drive. At halftime, my father and I remarked that it was the first time in quite some time we felt minimal stress over the potential result of a Penn State game. Strange how that happens.
  39. Really proud of the way the offensive line has handled adversity throughout the season. Here’s a group who has two freshman starters, loses it’s starting right tackle a few weeks ago, and then loses the left tackle (who had moved to right tackle) on the first series of the game. Still, next man up, plug and play.
  40. Let’s hope Brendan Mahon is healthy. But if he’s not, let’s see if we can find him a matching hardhat to wear with Andrew Nelson.
  41. Nice work by Paris Palmer. There’s a lot of raw ability there that has been waiting to be harnessed. In a perfect world, Palmer would have redshirted last year and foudn his way into a contributing role this year. But it’s not a perfect world, and Palmer didn’t have that luxury. It’s really great to see him come into his own.
  42. Seriously, every time I look at Cameron Brown, I have flashbacks to skinny Sean Lee from 2006. That should be fun.
  43. My father-in-law was expected a pick all night because he saw CJ Beathard staring down receivers from the opening series. Troy Apke made good on that expectation for that exact reason. Nice work.
  44. What impressed me most about Saturday night is that Penn State didn’t do this against a team in the midst of a collapse, or an early season cupcake. Iowa is a real team that is generally well coached and has been competitive. A 41-14 win against a team like this establishes a tone.
  45. Meanwhile, Indiana almost lost to Rutgers, and gave up 27 points. I wouldn’t mind seeing a repeat performance from Indiana’s defense this week against a far better group of players.
  46. On to an early kick in Bloomington. Let’s keep this train moving.
  47. We are ...