Penn State was dumb at times, but Iowa was even dumber. Whichever team is Jim Carrey or Jeff Daniels, I’ll leave that to you to decide...
The entire fan base held its collective breath while Trace McSorley laid on the ground, clutching his right knee, and then got up while clearly wincing in pain walking back to the sidelines. In the meantime, Tommy Stevens showcased why there will be little (if any) drop-off next year at the QB position, completing a pair of passes and rushing for a touchdown that tied the game at 14 in the first half, marking the first time all game PSU did not trail.
Trace would of course, return for the second half and ripped off a clutch 51-yard TD run but otherwise, seemed a bit off at times. His botched handoff to Miles Sanders inside the Iowa 10 yard-line early in the 4th quarter with PSU seeking to go up by three scores and effectively put the Hawkeyes away and his untimely pick-six later in the quarter made this contest another heart attack-inducing one. All in all, he would finish a mere 11-for-25 passing for 167 yards in what was a shaky, but gutsy performance. Here’s to hoping his knee is close to 100% in time for Michigan next weekend.
Running Back: C-
It was a quiet afternoon for Miles Sanders, who carried the rock 17 times for 64 yards and also had the costly fumble on a drive that otherwise could’ve put the game away. Things won’t get any easier for him next week when going up against another stout defense in Michigan.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: B
Pat Freiermuth had only one catch in the game, but it was also the only receiving TD for PSU and it more importantly, stopped the bleeding after Iowa jumped out to a 12-0 start in the game. KJ Hamler led all receivers with 96 yards on five catches (including hauling in a 39-yarder from Trace that kept a drive going). De’Andre Thompkins also seemed to get over his case of the drops, catching five balls for 59 yards. Jahan Dotson got in on the action once again, and while he only caught two balls for 21 yards, one of his catches came on a critical 4th and 3 inside Iowa territory to keep the drive alive, which would end with Freiermuth’s TD catch.
Offensive Line: B+
The O-line held up okay, all things considered. They did give up three sacks and allowed Trace to be hurried a few other times, but considering how stout Iowa’s defensive line is, things sure could’ve gone worse.
Defensive Line: A-
Yetur Gross-Matos developed before our very eyes into the beastly defensive end we all hoped he would become, leading the way with nine tackles, including two sacks and four total tackles for losses. He played perhaps the biggest role in making life miserable for Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley and in keeping the Hawkeyes ground game in check. Shareef Miller, Robert Windsor, and Kevin Givens were also able to help hurry Stanley, with Windsor coming up with a sack (and kind of redeeming himself for a couple dumb penalties early in the game).
Micah Parsons led the way with seven tackles and hurried Stanley once, but he also still had issues with being out of position at times, which led to big gains for Iowa. Koa Farmer had a terrible whiff on what should have been a tackle short of the sticks on third down during Iowa’s potential go-ahead drive, leading to a big gain and Iowa first down deep in PSU territory. Thankfully, Nick Scott saved the day (as you’ll read in the Secondary portion of this post).
John Reid sure looked like his 2016 self, whether it was the clutch interception (that was damn near a pick-six) that set up Stevens’ short TD run to tie the game at 14, or breaking up passes (Reid had three of them), he made his presence known to Iowa’s receivers and tight ends. Shout-out also goes to Nick Scott, who came up with perhaps the game’s most clutch play, intercepting a Nate Stanley pass intended for a completely unaware Noah Fant at the goal line. Garrett Taylor and Amani Orurwariye were also very active on the tackling front, racking up six each.
Special Teams: F
F is for “Fire Phil Galiano yesterday.” No, I don’t blame Phil for Blake Gillikin fumbling the snap that led to Iowa’s first safety, nor do I blame him for the second safety where Kyle Vasey snapped the ball high enough over Blake’s head to land into the upper deck. However, Iowa’s punter throwing a TD to a streaking D-lineman in an obvious fake punt situation from inside PSU’s 10-yard is beyond inexcusable, and is a pink slip-in-the-locker room type of offense, especially considering all the numerous special teams blunders this season.
Now, not everything was horrible for special teams. In fact, some parts of it were quite stellar. I’m looking at you, Jake Pinegar. The true freshman kicker and Iowa native had a career game against his home state school, hitting on all three of his field goals, all of them from 40-plus yards out. This, despite the fact that coming into this game, Jake’s longest made field goal was a 39-yarder. He has now nailed his last five field goal attempts in a row and much like Yetur, developed before our very eyes yesterday.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention just how clutch KJ Hamler’s 67-yard kickoff return right after Iowa’s pick-six cut the PSU lead to 27-24 in the 4th quarter. It helped set up Jake’s field goal that pushed PSU’s lead back to six, forcing the Hawkeyes to have to reach the end zone. As James Franklin would say, it’s the little things that matter.