Following a thrilling 30-24 victory over No. 18 Iowa on Saturday afternoon, the 17th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions are now 6-2 this season. In a game that was peak Iowa, the Nittany Lions did not allow a touchdown on defense and still had to hold their breath until the final horn sounded.
As always during Nittany Lion games, the fine folks in the Twittersphere were buzzing during the game. However, for the first time in a few weeks, there was more positive on Twitter than negative. Yay, beating ranked teams!
Despite the victory, things did not start well for the Nittany Lions. The first 10 minutes of the game could not have gone much worse for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State got the ball to start the game, went three-and-out, and Blake Gillikin then dropped a Kyle Vasey snap on a punt attempt. This led to Gillikin’s punt being blocked and rolling out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Exactly the start I expected from Penn State. Throw on first down. Incomplete. Run on second down, little gain. Drop on third down. Another special-teams mistake on fourth down. Blocked punt. Safety.— Dave Skutnik (@DaveSkutnik) October 27, 2018
*Immediate 3+our and a blocked punt safety*— Mark Shultz (@mark_my_words92) October 27, 2018
Yup. It’s definitely Iowa week.
This was just the beginning of the early game woes for the Nittany Lions. Following another three-and-out, with this one featuring a penalty and a sack, a poor punt by Gillikin gave Iowa the ball with great field position.
If Blake Gillikin hasn’t been the most disappointing player for Penn State this year, I don’t know who has— Emilie's Dad (@BonusCantos) October 27, 2018
To Gillikin’s credit, when Penn State needed him to come up big in the second half he did. Gillikin had just two second half punts, the first of which traveled 54-yards and the second nearly matched it sailing 49-yards.
To quote the late, great Billy Mays ‘but wait, there’s more!’ when it comes to Penn State special teams woes. On 4th and goal from the 10-yard line, Iowa lined up in some funky formation with punter Colten Rastetter at quarterback. Rastetter then tossed a touchdown pass to back up defensive lineman Sam Brincks. After this disaster Penn State fans were furious with special teams coordinator Phil Galiano, and rightfully so.
phil galiano is the dumbest football coach in america— Matt d (@PSUMatt2005) October 27, 2018
Phil Galiano should never work in football again— Clay Sauertieg (@ByCSauertieg) October 27, 2018
Please relieve Phil Galiano of his duties RIGHT NOW! Sincerely, all Penn State fans.— Joshua Hoch (@PSULions09) October 27, 2018
I'm normally not on the "fire coaches" train, but Phil Galiano needs to be done at PSU. 9 of Iowa's 12 are on the special teams. How do you let a kicker throw a pop fly to a fat lineman and no one can knock it down? Embarrassing.— Mack Schrock (@schrockmr) October 27, 2018
There would be another poor snap by Vasey that led to a second Iowa safety, and the Hawkeyes had a long kick off return that led to a field goal in the second half. Had Penn State’s special teams been better on Saturday, the Nittany Lions may have won this game by 20+ points.
After a slow start, the Nittany Lions controlled much of the final 50 minutes of game play. It all started when their offense put together a 10-play, 85-yard drive that cut Iowa’s lead to 12-7. The main catalysts on this drive? True freshmen Jahan Dotson and Pat Freiermuth. Dotson had two receptions on the drive, both of which went for first downs, including a 4th down conversion. Meanwhile, Freiermuth capped the drive off with an 18-yard touchdown reception.
Jahan Dotson better be starting next week.— Trace McScarely (@happyhourvalley) October 27, 2018
Feed Jahan Dotson— David McCue (@davidmccuee) October 27, 2018
Jahan Dotson stepping up. Love it— Matthew Taylor (@mtaylor_93) October 27, 2018
Pat Freiermuth is already better than Jesse James. As in like he could play for the Steelers tomorrow. He’s that good.— mj_perk (@PerkinsPenguins) October 27, 2018
Freiermuth has already emerged as a huge part of the Nittany Lion passing attack, and in the past two weeks Dotson has started to trend in the same direction.
Trace McSorley had to battle on Saturday. After missing time in the second quarter with a right leg injury, McSorley played the second half on just one good leg. Despite this, he ripped off a 51-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the second half to give Penn State their first lead of the game.
Penn State might never see another gamer like Trace McSorley so enjoy these last few games. Unreal. Embodiment of leadership.— Chad E. Lear (@EisforEdward) October 27, 2018
@penn_state build Richard Thomas "Trace" McSorley III a statue— chell (@mitchlisogorsky) October 27, 2018
The legend of McSorley, the greatest quarterback in program history, continues to grow.
While McSorley was out of the game, Tommy Stevens was handed the reigns. ‘Touchdown Tommy’ went 2/4 for 27 yards through the air and rushed for a touchdown. He also led a drive late in the second quarter that got the team in field goal range for a last second field goal that tied the game at 17 heading into the locker room.
Tommy Stevens taking over for Trace like pic.twitter.com/CiNbkfp3ux— Cucktober Rust (@wrathoftime_) October 27, 2018
Tommy Stevens— Evan Huber (@evanhuber46) October 27, 2018
Tommy Stevens is playing well! Like it— NCNittany (@NittanyNC) October 27, 2018
This Tommy Stevens cat from PSU is a stud— Landon Holifield (@LD_Holi) October 27, 2018
Speaking of that touchdown run by Stevens, it was set up by the first interception of the season by John Reid. With Penn State trailing 12-7, Reid intercepted a Nate Stanley pass and returned it to the Iowa 4-yard line.
So happy for John Reid. He's been getting better every game. #IOWAvsPSU— Tammi Ritter (@tritter72) October 27, 2018
Man, I can’t think of the last Penn State player who needed a big play like John Reid needed that one.— Chris BOO-chignani (@buchignani) October 27, 2018
JOHN REID BACK— Trace McScarely (@happyhourvalley) October 27, 2018
John Reid has underwhelmed in his return this season from injury, but what a time to show up. Massive momentum shift in this stadium just now.— Mitch Stewart (@mitchystew) October 27, 2018
After a rough start to his season, Reid is looking more and more like the player he was in 2016 each week.
Reid was not the only Penn State defensive back to get an interception on Saturday. The biggest play of the game came courtesy of redshirt senior safety Nick Scott. With 3:18 left in the game, Penn State leading 30-24, and Iowa looking at 1st and goal inside the 5-yard line, Scott came through by intercepting Stanley to thwart the Hawkeye threat.
Nick Scott!!— Shawn Kane (@CitizenKane95) October 27, 2018
NICK SCOTT❄️❄️❄️❄️— Aidan Steinbugl (@aidansteinbugl) October 27, 2018
Thank dog for Nick Scott— OrangeSeats1940 (@OrangeSeats1940) October 27, 2018
NICK SCOTT with the crucial interception!— Corey (@Black_And_Gold7) October 27, 2018
While Scott made the biggest play of the day for the defense, he was not the lone defender to make big plays for Penn State on Saturday. For a fourth consecutive week the Nittany Lion defense played great, as the lone long drive of the day for the Hawkeyes ended in Scott’s interception.
The best player of this defensive effort? Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos. YGM led the team in tackles for a second consecutive week, while also recording 4 tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks.
YETUR!!! GROSS!!! MATOS!!!!!— kellie♡ (@kcampp13) October 27, 2018
Yetur Gross-Matos is everything you want in a DE. #Beast— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoNFL) October 27, 2018
Yetur Gross Matos is a monster.— DylanCallaghanCroley (@DylanCCSports) October 27, 2018
I do like Yetur Gross-Matos 99 - he’s all over the field— Weasey-GoBrowns/PSU (@Wease22) October 27, 2018
While he is only a true sophomore, YGM is starting to look like a player that gets drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft one day.
Penn State’s defensive line as a whole played well on Saturday. PJ Mustipher, Robert Windsor, and Sahreef Miller were all a handful for Iowa’s offensive line, along with YGM. This included Miller blowing up Iowa’s attempted hail mary attempt at the buzzer to close out the game.
⚪️ SHAREEF DONT LIKE IT....STOPS THE HAWKEYES!! Miller forces Stanley into a last play pitch to an Iowa OL and that ends the game. #WeAre wins 30-24!!— FnA Nittany Lions (@FnANittanyLions) October 27, 2018
Shareef Miller wraps up Stanley, who pitches it to his lineman who rumbles a way but is brought down!! Penn State holds on!!— PSU Zone (@psu_zone) October 27, 2018
Fitting end to Penn State's 30-24 win over Iowa. Huge pressure by Shareef Miller, a lineman run and a group tackle.— Mark Wogenrich (@MarkWogenrich) October 27, 2018
While Penn State’s special teams was largely a mess on Saturday, true freshman kicker Jake Pinegar was a bright spot. Pinegar entered the day just 6/10 on field goal attempts this season with a long of 39. Well, on top of drilling all three PATs Pinegar was 3/3 on field goals in the victory with all three coming from 40+ yards. This including nailing a 45-yard field goal right before halftime to tie the game.
Who is this Kicker and what have they done with Jake Pinegar? #PSUvsIOWA— Bryan Riviello (@Rivz89) October 27, 2018
How fitting that Iowa native Jake Pinegar is turning into a clutch kicker against his home state school.— Trace McScarely (@happyhourvalley) October 27, 2018
JAKE PINEGAR WITH A 49 YARD FIELD GOAL!!! PENN STATE NOW LEADS 27-17 WITH 4:10 TO GO IN THE 3RD QUARTER— Sports Fanatic (@sportsislife26) October 27, 2018
Saturday’s victory over Iowa may prove to be the game that Penn State fans point at as the day #NoMistakeJake was born.
Penn State is now 6-2 after going 1-0 this week. It’s now Michigan week.