Well, it’s Iowa week.
Now, a quick reminder about my intent with this series. If you go back to that post I made West Virginia week, the goal is to remember notable or fun or maybe completely forgotten games. And I get to make that call. Feel free to discuss other games in the comments below - as you did last week with the Illinois post.
So, back to Iowa. There are games I’ll never talk about again: 2002, 2004, and 2008. You real ones can probably toss in 1996 as well. And 2009. Oh yes, and 2021. Forget about ever reading about those in this particular space on my watch.
There are games you’d love me to write about - 2017’s drive comes right to mind.
But let’s pause and remember one of the most joyous nights of an unforgettable season filled with memorable games. That’s right, let’s talk about a special November night in 2016.
For years, the Big Ten shook its head at ever having a night game in November. Well, money talks.
So, November 5, 2016 marked the latest a game had ever kicked off in Happy Valley in the eleventh month. Temperatures were in the low 50s as Penn State sought its fifth straight win of the season.
Most of us remember that season well. There was the uneven September start that bled into a shaky first half against Minnesota where boos were heard in Beaver Stadium. The rest doesn’t need retold, but Penn State was now 6-2 entering the Iowa matchup and ranked No. 12 in the country.
Iowa was reeling a bit, sitting at 5-3 and coming off a narrow home loss to eventual Big Ten West winner Wisconsin. Though Penn State had pulled its major upset of Ohio State, dreams of a conference title were still far-fetched with Michigan unbeaten and holding a tiebreaker over the Lions based on the head-to-head win in Ann Arbor.
So the setting on that Saturday night was a sellout crowd that was going to watch Penn State’s offense dominate after having hit its stride. A week after putting up a season-high 62 points at Purdue, the Lions were rolling. Iowa’s vaunted defense did nothing to stop it on that glorious Saturday night.
Trace McSorley hit Saeed Blacknall for a first quarter touchdown and the route was basically on from the start. Penn State rolled up 599 yards in breaking out to a 41-7 lead. Saquon Barkley put himself briefly in the Heisman Trophy conversation with his 211 total yards and two scores. McSorley passed for 240 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Chris Godwin led the Lions in receiving yards. It was all our old friends doing fun things. It was just an all around great night to be a fan of that team that seemed to be hitting its stride and building toward a Florida New Year’s Day bowl game.
Funny thing about that season, though. A week after being routed by Penn State, Iowa pulled an upset of Michigan - in a November night game in Kinnick - that ultimately gave Penn State hope at a Big Ten title in James Franklin’s third season.
As I said earlier, the rest of that 2016 season doesn’t need to recapped here. But while the Michigan State clincher and the wild comeback in Indianapolis to beat Wisconsin are the late season games that are most remembered, this Iowa one was pretty fun, too.
There have been other Nittany Lion seasons derailed by Iowa. However, 2016 saw two glorious weeks for Penn State football with the Hawkeyes as a key contributor.