As usual, it wasn’t pretty, but on Saturday afternoon, Penn State pounded their way to their second win of the Big Ten season with a 13-3 victory over Iowa. After being stunned by the Hawkeyes in 2008 and 2009, and then thoroughly trounced last season, it was good for Penn State to finally defeat a team that had been bothering them for so long. However, the win was even more important because it showed State could still play excellent defense even without some key pieces. We also may have gotten a teensy weensy bit closer to just maybe settling on one starting quarterback. Let’s hit it.
Just run it up the middle
I just love writing about which quarterback Penn State should play, but on Saturday that weird situation took a backseat to the rushing offense. The Nittany Lion offensive line of Quinn Barham, Johnnie Troutman, Matt Stankiewitch, DeOn’tae Pannell and Chima Okoli dominated the game while opening up plenty of holes for Silas Redd and Curtis Dukes to run through. Stephfon Green actually saw very limited action in this game as well, but his presence should continue to be mitigated by how well Redd and Dukes are playing. Redd handled most of the action with 28 carries for 142 yards, while Dukes had 60 yards for himself on just nine carries.
On Penn State’s only touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, they ran the ball for 10 plays in a row before finally cashing in on a play action pass from Matt McGloin to Kevin Haplea. It’s not a stretch to say that PSU imposed their will on Iowa in the second half of this game.
About those quarterbacks
Penn State actually had a chance to take a 10-point lead one possession earlier than they actually did. Late in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions drove all the way from their own 4 yard line to the Iowa 6 before Matt McGloin threw an interception in the corner of the endzone. It was McGloin’s first interception of the season, and it certainly could have been thrown better, but overall McGloin was a positive for the Penn State offense. Iowa had the middle of the field covered well the whole game, save for the time McGloin found Devon Smith on a crossing route for 21 yards. Mostly McGloin had success working the sidelines with Derek Moye and Justin Brown. Brown in particular showed some nice footwork while keeping himself in bounds. On his 19 passes, McGloin completed 12 for 133 yards. That’s not spectacular, but it was just fine for a day in which Penn State’s running game took the reins of the offense.
Rob Bolden, on the other hand, continued to make his case to be the back-up quarterback. Yet again, Bolden started the game and got off to a poor start, but thanks to some miraculous bounces, he somehow led Penn State to a field goal. One pass actually went right through a defender’s hands before finding Joe Suhey for a first down. Another actually bounced off the referee’s leg and ricocheted into Andrew Szczerba’s hands for 19 yards. On the first third down of the drive, Bolden tossed one several feet behind Justin Brown and nearly into the arms of a defender. Penn State followed with a fake field goal in which Evan Lewis took the snap and ran through the line for eight yards on 4th and 4, but PSU just ended up kicking a real field goal three plays later anyway.
Bolden wasn’t brought back into the game again until Penn State’s second possession of the third quarter. The wounded duck that he threw while facing a blitz on 3rd and 6 was enough to convince the coaches to stick with McGloin for the rest of the game. The fact that McGloin remained in the game even after throwing a killer interception for once gives me the slightest feeling that the coaches might finally see that he is the superior player.
Amos could be famous
Even without Matt Mauti, D’Anton Lynn and Stephon Morris, the Penn State defense had their most impressive game of the season. Iowa’s high tempo attack led by QB James Vandenberg and HB Marcus Coker looked like a very modest threat today. Vandenberg completed just half of his 34 passes for 169 yards and was repeatedly harassed but a surprisingly aggressive Penn State pass rush. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley dialed up more blitzes than we’ve seen in quite some time, which put a good amount of faith in Chaz Powell and freshman Adrian Amos’ coverage skills. Both guys were up for the challenge, as star Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt caught only three passes for 48 yards before his 25 yard gain on 4th and 40 in the closing minutes padded his stats.
I was especially impressed by Amos. On one play he was all over a deep throw by Vandenberg and nearly got under the ball for an interception. On another play, McNutt tried to beat him on a slant, but Amos slap the ball away at the last second. He really did not look like a freshman, which is a great sign. Linebacker Gerald Hodges had a great play following the McGloin interception. With the score still 6-3 and Iowa driving into Penn State territory, Hodges came on a blitz on 3rd and 7, beat the back left in to block him, and stripped Vandenberg to give Penn State the ball back. The ensuing drive saw Penn State score a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
Hey, for once there is more good than bad to take away from a Penn State win. The running game was dominant and the defense was rock solid. Of course, the passing game could still use some work, but it can definitely be helped if Matt McGloin actually gets a full game’s worth of pass attempts. If Penn State can continue to run the ball with success, it will open up some deep play action opportunities for the always aggressive McGloin. That’s it for now. Next week State is home at noon versus Purdue. It’s homecoming as well. Woohoo!