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62 Random Thoughts on Iowa

This one’s for Cooper, the kid with moxie

Penn State v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

On Saturday evening, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Iowa Hawkeyes engaged in a contest of American football under the lights at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. The Nittany Lions emerged victorious by the score of 21-19. I have some thoughts, which are randomly set forth below:

  1. This game was outrageously great, but before I get there, you’re going to have to indulge me briefly.
  2. After nearly 40 weeks of planning and waiting, my wife and I welcomed our first born into the world. Cooper Collyer was born on Friday morning at 7:48 a.m., and we could not be more pleased that his first photo in our arms features a Nittany Lion hat, complete with ears.
  3. (Yes, we had little Penn State socks for him to wear as well, but the outfit is a little too big right now)
  4. Cooper’s birth certainly serves as confirmation that my wife is a superhero. To all of you moms out there, know that we could never do what you do and we are forever indebted.
  5. So after two days of visitors and well wishes and poking and prodding by doctors and nurses, we finally had some semblance of peace on Saturday night and sat down as a family for the very first time to watch the Nittany Lions battle the Hawkeyes in prime time.
  6. Cooper Collyer, #futurePennStateQuarterback, was given a fantastic introduction to Penn State football. These two teams put on a heck of a show for the littlest Lion.
  7. I’m not reinventing the wheel by thinking that Kinnick Stadium is one of the toughest venues in college football. That was born out from Saturday night’s clash. Iowa has a special method of looking sloppy and mediocre for the non-conference schedule before electing to turn it on against the Big Ten. In 2009, for instance, Iowa squeaked out a 17-16 victory against perennial powerhouse Northern Iowa in week one. Several weeks later, beat the Daryll Clark-led Nittany Lions (then ranked 5th in the country) 21-10.
  8. Keep in mind that the 2009 game started with a touchdown pass to Chaz Powell on the game’s first offensive play. That means the following 59:50 saw Iowa, a team that barely topped their directional cousin a few weeks before, beat a top-5 team in that team’s own house 21-3.
  9. No matter what the sport, Iowa makes teams play ugly. True in football, true in basketball. This year was no different.
  10. Paternoball hasn’t abandoned the Big Ten, it just consolidated with it’s western brethren. Iowa was so successful against Penn State for years because it was able to out-Paterno Joe Paterno himself. Stay conservative, no mistakes, strike while the iron is hot. That was the way the Michigan game played out last year, as well.
  11. I was cautiously optimistic heading into Saturday night’s contest because we don’t play that style of ball anymore. The last few games against Iowa have de-mystified them to a certain extent. But not entirely. Say what you will, but Kirk Ferentz can get his team ready for the big prime time moment.
  12. That crowd doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the best in college football. It creates a real, tangible advantage for the Hawkeyes.
  13. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the 1st quarter wave to the children’s hospital. Hearing about it was great, but seeing it in action was way cooler.
  14. FTK.
  15. A reminder that Saquon Barkley is still the Truth, and this was (improbably?) his biggest moment. He’s had big time, dominant performances against Ohio State and USC, so it’s hard to believe that this made that much of an impact. The Rose Bowl run alone showcased his talent to the world. Despite that incredible play in a memorable game, his performance in Kinnick Stadium managed to feel bigger, and the coverage has only confirmed it.
  16. Involving Barkley in the first offensive play was the right move, and clearly involving him in the first three plays was a sign of things to come.
  17. #ShouldHaveNamedHimSaquonInsteadOfCooper
  18. I’ve compared him to Larry Johnson in the past, but it’s becoming more significant by the game. Zack Mills (pre-shoulder issue) was excellent and Johnson was an outstanding contributor. Suddenly, in mid-season, the coaching staff figured out that LJ was the best weapon on the field, and we proceeded to force the ball to him in every which way.
  19. That worked out pretty well - the man ended up rushing for 2000 yards and averaging over 8 yards per carry during the regular season.
  20. Barkley’s not far behind.
  21. Also a sign of things to come - the line’s questionable performance on that first drive. On the game’s third offensive play, a nice Barkley run got called back for holding, Trace McSorley was sacked on the very next play.
  22. Iowa’s defensive line is long and good, and I expected them to have some success. They did.
  23. I agree with Chris that Andrew Nelson is a great and loyal guy, but the right side of the offensive line was a tire fire on Saturday night and it almost cost this team everything they’ve been working for. McSorley’s pick is a great example of a play that would have been a 40 yard catch and run by Mike Gesicki that turned into an interception and scoring opportunity for the Hawkeyes because Nelson couldn’t get himself out in time to block a very good defensive end.
  24. This is all about context, though. Iowa’s defensive line had some success, particularly on the right side of the line. They created havoc that led to turnovers and stalled drives, particularly in the red zone. That said, Saquon Barkley did basically whatever he wanted out there for large chunks of yards each and every time. Trace had a few nice runs, and both Andre Robinson and Miles Sanders had solid gains in limited action.
  25. Penn State certainly gained yardage but couldn’t convert when it needed to. Where have I heard that before?
  26. Oh, I know...
  27. From Ohio State’s Random Thoughts last season - “The anatomy of an upset by a 20-point dog is as follows - the dog plays uncharacteristically perfect football to keep close to the favorite. Meanwhile, the favorite, feeling pressure playing before a home crowd, makes several mistakes at critical junctures to cede its standing advantage. The dog makes a big play on either defense or special teams (or both) and narrowly eeks out a victory.”
  28. So Iowa wasn’t a 20-point dog and Penn State wasn’t the home team, but the point is more or less the same. Penn State is the better team on both sides of the ball. Even still, it took a heroic effort from the McSorley-led offense to win the day.
  29. Comparatively speaking, Iowa did play mistake-free football. Nothing fancy, and they basically could get nothing going for much of the game, but they played within themselves on offense and forced Penn State into mistakes at critical junctures. Iowa did make big plays on defense (Josey Jewell) and special teams (the blocked field goal) and converted both into points.
  30. Josey Jewell looks like a Penn State linebacker. We could use him.
  31. I’ve been critical of the defense this year, specifically the linebackers. Guess what? They earned every bit of praise they got after this performance. Hats off to Jason Cabinda and crew on a job well done.
  32. This was a classic Penn State defensive show - strong tackling with pressure up front.
  33. Shareef Miller, stand up and be counted. Two safeties already this season for this defense? Yes, thank you.
  34. As usual, the secondary came to play and the line looked good. The linebackers made their tackles and pursued appropriately.
  35. The latter cannot be overstated. Akrum Wadley is a great player who was basically held in check all game, except for a few limited plays that produced big results. Keeping him boxed up was a huge deal.
  36. Contrary to most hot takes here, I didn’t see Penn State’s offensive performance as poor, nor did I see McSorley make lots of mistakes. He had quite a few balls batted down, but the interception was caused by poor play on the right side of the line and he still completed 65% of his passes.
  37. Iowa’s defensive decision to limit big plays and let Barkley eat was interesting and almost paid off.
  38. Almost.
  39. Saquon doing Saquon things is par for the course. Hurdling over a tackler and absorbing a hit, landing on his feet and getting the first down? That was special.
  40. Kirk Herbstreit sounded like he was going to fall off his chair when Barkley stopped on a dime on his left foot to avoid going out of bounds.
  41. Was his knee down?
  42. Seriously, are we sure his knee wasn’t down?
  43. If his knee was down, that’s a pretty big break for us.
  44. That said, I thought officiating was generally atrocious this game. I still can’t figure out how Grant Haley’s interception wasn’t actually an interception based on replay.
  45. By the way, anyone else notice who was in on that forced fumble? If you guessed Marcus Allen and Grant Haley, you’d be right.
  46. I guess I’ll be the one commissioning the statue for those two, since no one has taken me up on that idea just yet.
  47. As soon as the field goal in the 4th was blocked, I knew we were in trouble. I was prepared to lose 16-15 and sink deeply into my chair with my head down.
  48. As soon as the Iowa touchdown happened, I said, “This is actually the best thing that could possibly happen to us.”
  49. A two-minute drill by Trace McSorley for the win? There’s no one else I’d rather have driving the car.
  50. Gotta respect the play by Saeed Blacknall to convert and keep the drive alive. The kid makes big plays. I’d just like to see him more consistent.
  51. If this is Juwan Johnson’s coming out party, I’m all in. Underrated play of the drive - Johnson runs a hitch on third down, realizes McSorley is under pressure and getting flushed out of the pocket, and slips behind his defender for a little dink and dunk over his head for the first down. A smart play that kept Penn State in a position to be successful.
  52. I loved that shovel pass call inside the 10 and, unlike Chris Fowler, thought that Hamilton might have had room to get into end zone. Great call.
  53. Is there a better decoy in all of college football than Saquon Barkley?
  54. In a game that featured Penn State offenses struggling in the red zone against Iowa’s defense all day, it could not be more appropriate that Penn State needed to win the game by scoring in the red zone against Iowa’s defense.
  55. Every great narrative has the hero struggle before finally overcoming his adversary. It took until the final seconds of the game, but we did it.
  56. If Johnson didn’t catch that ball, Hamilton does.
  57. I’m still glad Johnson caught it and left no doubt. That’s a huge play for him.
  58. As our friend Gus Johnson is so fond of saying, survive and advance. Yes, indeed.
  59. This one was for Cooper, to show him the way of the Nittany Lion. He’s obviously our good luck charm.
  60. He also managed to be a good luck charm for the J-E-T-S this weekend too. The kid just has........moxie.
  61. On to Indiana.
  62. We are...