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Know Your Foe, Week 4: Iowa Hawkeyes

Penn State meets Iowa for the 26th time since 1930

Wyoming v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

University of Iowa

Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Enrollment: 33,334
Home Stadium: Kinnick Stadium
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz, 19th year, 138–92 (.600) – longest tenured coach in the nation
Conference: Big Ten (West Division)

Series History

First Game: November 15, 1930 (Iowa won, 19-0)
Last Game: November 5, 2016 (Penn State won, 41-14)
Overall: Penn State leads 14-12
Current Win Streak: 3, Penn State

Last Season (8-5 overall, 6-3 Big Ten West)

After a 12-2 season and a Rose Bowl appearance in 2015, there were high hopes for the 2016 Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa won against Miami of Ohio and Iowa State, lost to North Dakota State, defeated Rutgers, lost to Northwestern, then defeated both Minnesota and Purdue.

Iowa’s next two games resulted in losses to no. 10 Wisconsin and no. 20 Penn State, but the Hawkeyes bounced back and shocked the college football world in their next game. Iowa was 5-4 when they played no. 2 Michigan at Iowa, and pulled off a 14-13 win. Iowa kept up momentum, winning their next game against Illinois and defeating no 17 Nebraska 40-10. Iowa ended the regular season with a no 21 ranking and a spot in the Outback Bowl with no. 20 Florida, but lost 30-3.

Last Week

Iowa is 3-0 after wins over Wyoming, Iowa State and North Texas. Last week they defeated North Texas 31-14 after trailing 14-10 at the half then scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the second half of play.

Offseason and Recruiting

Iowa lost a number of key players after the 2016 season, including quarterback C.J. Beathard, defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, tight end George Kittle and stand out cornerback Desmond King, who all departed for the NFL.

On the coaching side, there were a number of changes, notably with offensive coordinator Greg Davis “retiring” and being replaced by Coach Ferentz’s son, Brian Ferentz. Two other offensive position coaches also did not return.

Iowa’s 2017 class ranked as the nation’s 41st recruiting class (8th in the Big Ten Conference) as compared to PSU’s 2017 class ranked at 15th in the nation and 3rd in the Big10. Of note in Iowa’s 2017 class is five- star legacy defensive end A.J. Epenesa.


Even with the departure of key players last year, Iowa’s offense isn’t having too much trouble this year largely due to starting quarterback, Nathan Stanley, a strong returning offensive line, and key running backs Akrum Wadley and James Butler and receiver Matt VandeBerg.

Although Iowa is 78th overall in total offense, the Hawkeyes are 6th in total possession, 27th in first down offense and 24th in third down conversions. New starting quarterback Nathan Stanley has shown solid performance this year, ranking in the top in the Big Ten (just in front of Trace McSorley) in touchdown passes with 10. Stanley is 24th in pass efficiency in FBS, 5th in passing touchdowns (in front of McSorley) and he’s only thrown one interception. So far this year he’s gone 51 of 83 for 633 yards.

Stanley is protected by a solid offensive line that’s returning five starters including Sean Walsh and James Daniels, who were all-Conference in 2016.

Senior running back Akrum Wadley returns after a 1,000-yard season in 2016. Wadley has already rushed for 258 yards and a touchdown, and caught 6 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown, also making him the team’s second leading receiver.

Another key target for quarterback Stanley is leading receiver Nick Easley, a junior college transfer, currently with 16 receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior receiver Matt VandeBerg also returns after missing nine games last year due to injuries. He didn’t see much play time in 2016, but in 2015 was the top Iowa receiver. This year, VandeBerg already has 8 receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown.


Iowa’s defense is one of the deepest in the Big 10, and they’re returning starters in many positions.

In S&P+ ratings, Iowa had a top 15 defense last year, giving up only 18.8 points per game, and was 22nd in total defense in FBS (NCAA rankings).

This year, Iowa is 46th in FBS in total defense, a little lower on the charts, but they’ve got a kickoff return defense that’s 2nd in the Big Ten and 7th in FBS with an average of 14.78 yards per return. The Hawkeye’s punt return defense leads the Big Ten and ranks 5th in FBS, averaging zero yards.

Iowa has one of the most talented and toughest defensive lines in the conference that includes five-star freshman defensive end A.J. Epenesa who at 6’ 5” and 270 lbs will look to be fed and has already logged 3 tackles and 1 ½ sacks.

Junior end Matt Nelson (6’8”) returns along with sophomore end Anthony Nelson (6’7”) who are both talented pass-rush specialists. Matt Nelson racked up 42 tackles and 5 sacks and Anthony Nelson had 33 tackles and 6 sacks. Junior end Parker Hesse returns after racking up 36 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2016.

Josey Jewell returns as one of best linebackers in the conference and in college football, after making 124 total tackles (and 9 pass breakups) last season. Bo Bower and Ben Neimann also return this year to the linebacker unit. In 2016 Bower had 91 tackles and Niemann had 69 (nice).

As far as the secondary, with the departure of Desmond King, corners Manny Rugamba and Joshua Jackson are two of the few players with experience.

Special Teams

Kicker Miguel Recinos won the starting job this year, beating out kicker Keith Duncan (9-11 last year, long of 41, 38-39 of extra points). Recinos is perfect so far this season going 12-12 on extra points and 3-3 on field goals.


Check out the Iowa SB Nation Blog Black Heart Gold Pants