Belated Nittany Lion review versus Iowa

Penn State visited Iowa this weekend to play a football game against the Hawkeyes. The result was a 38-14 thwomping in which the Nittany Lions dominated every aspect of the game save for garbage time kick return touchdowns. Penn State had 504 yards of total offense compared to Iowa’s 209 while possessing the ball for more than 38 minutes.

The 8:00 p.m. start relegated this match to the Big Ten Network, which means many people didn’t get to witness it (you can check their cable packages or just look at this week’s AP rankings for proof of that). The number one thing to remember about this game is that it was Penn State’s most impressive performance of the season. However, if you’d like to go deeper, here’s five more things.

Bill Belton carried the ball 16 times and gained 103 yards while scoring three touchdowns
Zach Zwinak had rushed for over 300 yards over the course of the previous three games, but in Iowa City Belton appeared to finally win Bill O’Brien over. Belton looked as healthy as he’s looked since the opener and appeared to locate and run through holes more easily than in the past. In short, he ran more like a halfback than like an athlete trying to be a halfback. Most surprising was the relatively slight Belton being so effective around the goal line. His three scores were from 11, three and five yards out.

Zwinak, meanwhile, had his first rough game of the seaosn. He had the same number of carries as Belton, but only gained 52 yards. Zwinak also lost a pair of fumbles, including one right on the goal line that would have been devastating had Penn State not been up by 31 points at the time.

Kyle Carter made a great leaping catch on a 4th-and-3 to set up Penn State’s second touchdown
We already know that O’Brien will opt to use his offense on fourth down in any plausible situation on the opponent’s side of the 50. What was interesting about this play that occurred on the Iowa 45-yard line in the first quarter was how Matt McGloin stared down his intended receiver as if there was no Plan B. Usually staring at one receiver is bad, but at the snap Carter was clearly locked in man coverage with no safety over the top, so you can forgive McGloin for this one. Carter was barely able to shake his man, but McGloin threw the ball anyway and Carter reached over the defender’s back for an incredible catch. Carter then kept on running and ended up with a 34-yard reception that set up a PSU touchdown. The play was very reminiscent of the Allen Robinson touchdown against Temple, which was also a fourth down play in which McGloin basically waited for Robinson to lose his defender before releasing the ball.

O’Brien went for it on 4th-and-1 from PSU 36 in the third quarter with a 31-0 lead
This play probably would have gained more attention of I wasn’t the only person still watching the game in the third quarter. Penn State has been very effective with quarterback sneaks so far this season, so O’Brien certainly had the odds in his favor, but the real question is why even bother with the game so out of hand? I’ll have to check the postgame quotes later, but it seems to me like O’Brien operates under the mindset that the score doesn’t really matter as long as he feels like his team has a good chance to convert. McGloin stumbled and ended up being stuffed on the play, but it turned out being inconsequential. Great conversation starter, though.

Jordan Hill had seven solo tackles, one tackle for a loss and one sack
Iowa did sustain a couple of injuries to their offensive line over the course of the game, but it’s still fascinating how much of an impact Hill had on the game. He was in the backfield all the time and could not be contained by Iowa’s interior line. It’s safe to say that Hill was a big factor in shutting down the Iowa running game, without which its offense ceased to function.

Iowa halfback Mark Weisman gained nine yards on five carries
I knew coming into the game that stopping Weisman would be the most important part of the game for Penn State. The sophomore had run for over 100 yards in four straight games, including a 116-yard effort against a defensively stout Michigan State team. However, against the Nittany Lions, all of Iowa’s efforts to run the ball proved fruitless. After Weisman was benched, backup Greg Garmon could only manage 28 yards on eight carries. The futility on the ground put the ball in quarterback James Vandenberg’s hands, which allowed the Penn State defense to rack up four sacks and two interceptions.

Woooo. That was a fun one. I didn’t even get to mention that McGloin was 26-for-38 with 289 yards through the air with two touchdown passes. Also, Sam Ficken hit on a 34-yard field goal (his longest of the season) but had a 43-yard try blocked (it looked like he kicked it too low).

This weekend Penn State takes on Ohio State in a game that means nothing but means everything at the same time. Huh? Follow me on twitter @apy5000 for more.

This entry was posted in Big Ten Football, Penn State Football and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s