Game Grades: Iowa
Earlier this week it was revealed that the Penn State Nittany Lions were ranked No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings. This ranking was a surprise to many. Penn State proved this ranking was justified by dominating Iowa by the score of 41-14 on Saturday night.
Here are the game grades for Penn State’s performance against Iowa:
McSorley’s ability to extend the play was on display versus the Hawkeyes. After avoiding a blitzing Iowa defensive back, McSorley hit tight end Mike Gesicki on the numbers for a huge catch and run. This set up a one-yard touchdown run the next play. McSorley also showed great poise in the pocket. Earlier in the game, McSorley delivered a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone for Saeed Blacknall for 19 yards. 240 yards passing, 40 yards rushing, two passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and no turnovers certainly qualifies as an A for Penn State’s sophomore QB.
Running Back: A+
Saquon Barkley did it all (again) on Saturday night. His speed, power and elusiveness allowed him to weave through the entire Iowa defense. This combination was most notable on his 57-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Barkley took it to the outside, made two defenders whiff on tackle attempts, cut between four defenders and dragged Iowa cornerback Desmond King, one of the most feared defenders in college football, into the end zone. Barkley ran for 167 yards on the night. He also caught one pass, and it was a big one. Barkley’s one catch went for a 44 yards as he hop-stepped into the end zone. If you’re doing the math, that’s 211 total yards after he tallied 277 yards the weak prior. Not a shabby performance for Barkley.
Wide Receivers: B
Only three wide receivers caught a pass in Penn State’s rout of Iowa. But Penn State only threw the ball 18 times, and McSorley did not target his receivers often. When the opportunity arose for the receivers to make plays they did, most notably Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall. Godwin caught four passes for 87 yards and Blacknall’s 19 yard touchdown reception highlighted a solid performance from the Blue and White receivers.
Tight End: A-
Penn State’s third touchdown drive lasted four plays. Mike Gesicki was involved in the first three. After two catches for 18 yards on the drive, Gesicki hauled in a 43 yard pass from McSorley. This catch was initially ruled a touchdown but was ruled down on the one-yard line after review. Gesicki’s big series helped put Penn State up 21-0 on Iowa and Penn State never looked back.
Offensive Line: B+
Iowa’s defensive line could not stop Penn State’s rushing attack. The offensive line of Penn State was a big reason why the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack was so lethal. Barkley had many open holes to run through to tear up the Iowa defense. However, the offensive line did allow one sack and it was egregious. Chasz Wright came into the game at right tackle to replace an injured Brendan Mahon. Wright missed a block which led to a big blindside hit of McSorley. Overall, these players had a solid night.
This is a group that looks reenergized with the return of its linebacking core. Iowa struggled to move the ball on offense all night. Iowa’s was held to 40 total yards rushing and 204 yards passing. 81 of Iowa’s 204 yards passing took place when Penn State had their backups in the game during the fourth quarter. The only reason the defense does not get an A is due to their careless face-mask penalties as well as their inability to cover the screen pass all game long.
Special Teams: C+
Nothing remotely special stood out against Iowa for Penn State’s special teams. The group got off to an auspicious start with Miles Sanders 48 yard opening kickoff return. But the kicking team allowed a short field goal to be blocked early in the first quarter. This is the second time in three games the kicking team has left three points on the board by allowing a blocked field goal. A few plays later, Penn State was flagged for kick-catch interference. These are errors that can’t be made, yet Penn State has made this a reoccurrence in recent weeks.
The team was ready to go on Saturday, and head coach James Franklin was a huge reason why. Franklin declined to talk about his team’s ranking leading up to the game. Instead he focused on Iowa. This shaped the right mindset for his players and prevented a letdown for the Nittany Lions against a reeling Iowa team. Fans in attendance pleaded for the Nittany Lions to go for it on fourth throughout the game, but Franklin decided to punt the ball, trusting his defense. This decision paid off on each occasion, and helped shape an impressive win for his football team.
Charles Hart is a freshman majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.