Game Preview: Penn State vs. Iowa

Story posted November 19, 2020 in CommRadio, Sports by Andrew Field

Two teams trending in two different directions get ready to face off for a matchup in Beaver Stadium at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions are 0-4 for the first time since 2001, and another consecutive loss this week would mark the program’s worst start in school history.

On the flip side, the Iowa Hawkeyes are winners of their last two after coming off of back to back losses to start the season to Purdue and Northwestern. They have since outscored their opponents 84-14.

Penn State is experiencing new territory this week for multiple reasons. A potential fifth loss is one thing, but a quarterback battle in the middle of the season is another.

Last week against Nebraska, Sean Clifford was pulled by head coach James Franklin in the second quarter after an interception and fumble earlier in the game.

In came backup quarterback Will Levis who completed 14-31 passes for 219 yards and added 61 yards rushing on 18 carries. Even though he provided a spark, Levis and the Penn State offense could not finish drives when it counted. Multiple red zone attempts were unsuccessful in the fourth quarter which sealed the loss.

In Franklin’s press conference this week, no information was revealed about who would be the starter on Saturday. Whether that is a game plan for Penn State so that Iowa prepares for two quarterbacks, or if the battle is too close to decide is only pure speculation.

Another point of emphasis, this time for the Penn State defense, was turnovers. Linebacker Brandon Smith’s interception in the fourth quarter in last week's game was the first Nittany Lion takeaway since Week 1 against Indiana.

In every game so far this season, Penn State has been on the losing side of the turnover battle. It is something that Franklin stresses about winning every week, but the team has yet to do so.

One positive note for the Nittany Lions is improvement of the ground game. Against Nebraska, Penn State rushed for 245 yards, and saw big runs from freshmen Caziah Holmes (36 yards) and Keyvone Lee (31 yards). Devyn Ford also tallied 16 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown.

During the game, redshirt freshman Caedan Wallace slotted in at right tackle and Will Fries, the redshirt senior, switched to right guard. It was a change that will be monitored this Saturday to see if Wallace stays at tackle or if Fries goes back to his original position.

For Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, beating Penn State has eluded him and his teams the past couple of years. Taking a look at the recent history of these two teams, Penn State has won the last six meetings against the Hawkeyes. The last three matchups have been decided by a total of just 13 points.

This year’s Iowa football team is looking to break that dry spell, and to do that, it starts on the defensive side of the ball.

Iowa’s defense has only allowed an average of 14.75 points per game through its first four, and is led by two linebackers in Seth Benson and Nick Niemann.

Both players are physical, as they've combined for 60 total tackles on the year and give the defense energy on late downs as their athleticism has also posed problems for opposing teams so far this season.

The Hawkeyes secondary is locked down by Riley Moss and Jack Koerner as the two players have two and three interceptions in the first four games, respectively.

Iowa’s ground game is another reason why it has been successful in the past two weeks. Sophomore Tyler Goodson is averaging six yards per carry and has five touchdowns. Goodson is coming off back-to-back 100 yard, two touchdown performances as he looks to carry that momentum into Saturday.

When Goodson needs a breather, the Hawkeyes can also go to an experienced senior in Mekhi Sargent who has over 1,500 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns since 2018.

If the Nittany Lions struggle out of the gate and can’t start fast, they could be in trouble.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras has four interceptions this season, and if Penn State wants to stay in the game, forcing the young quarterback to make poor decisions is going to be paramount for Brent Pry’s defense.

Look for Iowa, on the offensive side of the ball, to try and control the time of possession battle and establish a consistent ground game that could open up play action passes down the field.

This may finally be the year that Iowa ends its drought against Penn State.

Prediction: Iowa 28, Penn State 20


Andrew Field is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email