Penn State returns to action after having their bye last week. They travel to Iowa City to do battle with the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes have been a perennial thorn in the side of the Nittany Lions. Looking back over the past decade, Iowa has given Penn State and their fans some of the most disappointing losses imaginable.
In 2008, Penn State was riding an emotional crest that saw them wins their first 9 games including wins at Wisconsin and Ohio State sandwiched around a win against Michigan. The Lions were 3 wins shy of making it to the national title game. Standing in the way of destiny…the Iowa Hawkeyes. Penn State was ahead at the end of three quarters by the scores of 23-14. After an Iowa touchdown, Penn State was flagged for a controversial pass interference penalty that gave Iowa good enough field position to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired. Down went the Nittany Lions BCS title hopes.
Many were highly anticipating the rematch of Iowa and Penn State at Beaver Stadium in 2009. Penn State opened the game with long Daryll Clark-to-Chaz Powell 79 yard touchdown play on their first offensive play from scrimmage. Penn State would go on and add a short field goal on their next possession. The Nittany Lions led 10-0 and wouldn’t score another point. The game turned when Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn blocked a punt to open the fourth quarter and returned it 53 yards for a score. That was a special teams momentum changer from which Penn State never fully recovered. They went on to lose the game 21-10.
And, who could forget the 2004 Penn State-Iowa Classic that ended 6-4. To this day, that was the most embarrassing and sad game I think I have ever seen, not just live, but EVER! That game fell in the middle of a stretch where Penn State lost 6 consecutive games. What I recall about that game was Iowa having the punter run out of the end zone and take a safety (the second such occurrence of the game mind you!) with only a few minutes remaining in the game. By taking the safety, that put the score at Iowa 6 and Penn State 4, thereby allowing Penn State to get the ball, needing just a field goal to win. Penn State was so inept, they couldn’t even move the ball far enough to get a field goal chance. Needless to say, that game was one of the low points for Joe Paterno and his coaching staff.
Each year brings new hope and optimism that this will be OUR year. Well, for Penn State fans, OUR year won’t be for awhile, but we still get a chance to exorcise those pesky Hawkeye demons. The Nittany Lions haven’t won in Kinnick Stadium since 1999. Bill O’Brien is hoping that a change in staff and a change in philosophy will be the tonic that Penn State needs to get a second consecutive win in this series. Last year Penn State whipped Iowa at Beaver Stadium by the score of 13-3. Tailback Silas Redd was a dominant force that the Hawkeye defenders could not tackle.
In 2012, Penn State and Iowa seem to be very similar in many ways. Both teams enter the contest 4-2 overall, but 2-0 in their respective divisions. Both teams have somewhat erratic offenses but superb defenses. The outcome of Saturday night’s game will likely hinge on who can take advantage of turnovers, and who can convert those opportunities into scores.
Let’s see what my keys to the game are for a Penn State win over Iowa: