clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Vengeful Shutout

The Nittany Lions suffocated the Iowa offense as they ground out a 31-0 win on Saturday.

Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Dominic DeLuca (0) and safety Keaton Ellis (2) break up a pass against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the second half at Memorial Stadium. Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Allow me to editorialize for a minute. Every Sunday, I do my best to outline the biggest plays of the previous day’s game, sprinkling in my perspective in between. Today, I want to spend some time talking about what led up to this game.

The story is well known across these parts. Penn State went to Iowa City two years ago, was in command for most of the first half, then Sean Clifford went down, and Iowa did what the Iowa Hawkeyes do best: they sucked the life out of a quarterback-less Nittany Lion squad and ultimately won the game. The part we all remember most, of course, was how, as Penn State players kept going down, the boos from Iowa fans grew louder. Then one of their coaches on the sideline joined in on the fun by mocking Penn State players.

Then, two days later, the Hawkeyes’ own head coach doubled down to add fuel to the fire. As frustrating as the game itself was —both due to the loss and what it would do for Penn State’s 2021 season, as annoying as the boos from their fans were, as classless as having one of your own coaches mock injured players is, it was Kirk Ferentz’s comments that took me over the edge. You’re justified if you lost it at any step of the outlined process above. I chalked it up as football in the heat of the moment. But, with days to cool down, to choose to keep this going with foolish comments that served no purpose than to rub our noses in it, is to declare that you don’t care about sportsmanship. The head coach of Iowa football chose to be petty when he could have put this to bed.

I always viewed the Iowa series with a sporstlike hatred —a respectful, gosh darn it I don’t want to lose to these guys vigor that, while intense, still acknowledged that Iowa was a worthy opponent and, who knows, maybe even a potential rival down the line. It was the kind of friendly contest that showed what could be possible in due time. That all went out the window on that fateful Tuesday in 2021. All because Ferentz chose to be petty.

He, however, chose to be petty against the wrong coach. The king of petty himself, James Franklin did not forget what happened two years ago. And, while he wouldn’t let you know it publicly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he let their coaches know privately. But the best part of this result is just how it happened. You could have scripted a number of different ways in which revenge could have been achieved, but using Iowa’s own script against them is the sweetest of them all.

The Hawkeyes opened up the first drive of the game, and looked like they would be able to move the ball. In fact, they moved all the way to midfield before they punted deep into Penn State territory. A near safety later, and some folks may have had flashbacks to another fateful, rainy whiteout 14 years ago. In Iowa’s ensuing drive from Penn State territory, it looked like the offense was going to march right down and do what they do best. Eric All, however, fumbled the ball on a first down-achieving play, and the floodgates were open. Iowa would not achieve another first down until the game was well out of hand.

Penn State followed the fumble with a field goal drive. Punt. Penn State had a 10-play, 39-yard drive to go up 10-0 early. Punt. Penn State started the third quarter by driving down and scoring a touchdown, chewing 6:40 of game clock. Punt. A 12-play, 71-yard drive that used 5:50 later, Penn State scored another touchdown. Fumble. Three minutes and forty-two seconds later, Penn State is up 31-0 on the nation’s best defense. Punt.

The Iowa offense has notoriously been inept over the past two seasons and a quarter. They had a number of transfers to, in what the Ferentz family will insist till their dying breath, was a personnel problem. Yet, the Eic All and Cade McNamara who ripped the hearts out of the Lion fateful two years ago couldn’t get anything going in this one, and the entire second half was a formality, as the 10-0 lead in the first half was insurmountable on their own.

The sweetest part of it all is how this all happened. Penn State’s symbolic 10 first half points came on two turnovers by Iowa —the aforementioned fumble, and a muffed punt that put the Lions in Iowa territory. Meanwhile, the Iowa defense could not contain Drew Allar long enough to force mistakes, and the running game, all 215 yards of it, wore the Hawkeyes down until there was nothing left in the tank. If there’s a silver lining for the Iowa fateful, it’s that, with Big Ten West play upcoming, Iowa needs to average nearly 30 points a game to get over the Ferentz line. We all know that’s not happening.

Stats and storylines

4 - Iowa first downs. Drew Allar passing touchdowns. Turnovers forced by the defense. I can keep going, but I think the point has been made.

0 - Turnovers of any kind by Allar. Realistically speaking, the young quarterback is going to turn the ball over eventually. But the fact that Penn State has already faced two of the four best defenses they will face all season, and Allar has yet to throw an interception, bodes really well for their prospects.

What a night it was - 110,830 people were in attendance to watch this game. That’s the second largest crowd in Penn State history. In fact, two of the top five largest crowds have come this season (the fifth largest was 110,747 against West Virginia to open the season). Penn State still plays Michigan later in the year.

Balance, oh balance - No matter how inept the Iowa offense was, this game could have been an adventure in years past. But now, the offensive line can simply take over, and our trio of running backs (yes, Trey Potts is that dude) will make sure to get that first down when the team needs it.

Masterful coaching - Early in the game, Mike Yurcich was falling into Iowa’s game plan by running the ball outside. Midway through the first quarter, that changed. Instead of trying to force a big play, Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton patiently chunked out four-yard after four-yard play, and ultimately wore the defense down. Outside plays were few and far between after the near safety.