Five Things We Learned: Iowa
Penn State thrashed the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes Saturday by a final score of 41-14. The Nittany Lions were rolling in every aspect of the game as they moved the ball with ease, stuffed the Hawkeyes rushing attack and excelled on their kick coverage and returns. As Penn State continues to improve and grow as a team, here are five things we learned from its most recent contest.
1. The hype from the Ohio State victory only benefitted Penn State.
Many people were concerned by how Penn State would play following its memorable upset win over Ohio State. Some believed that head coach James Franklin and company would crack under the pressure of being ranked, but they have done quite the opposite. After posting 62 points against Purdue, Penn State dominated Iowa, who is known for spoiling the great Nittany Lion teams in 2008 and 2009. Franklin and his players have shown maturity, poise and a will to win no matter whom they face. The Ohio State game and how they have handled the aftermath of it truly defines this team as one of the best in the nation.
2. Saquon Barkley is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender.
Sophomore running back Saquon Barkley continues to take the Big 10 by storm turning in another outstanding performance. Barkley was elusive with his cuts, displayed great vision and was effective as a pass catcher. Barkley finished the contest with 167 rushing yards, 44 receiving yards and two scores. With Penn State’s resurgence and ascension in the polls, the Heisman committee should look to Barkley as one of the top candidates. Barkley’s talent and leadership has been the difference maker for Penn State on offense because it opens up the game plan much more with opposing teams having to devote significant attention to the run game. Barkley is ranked 19th in the country with 888 total rushing yards and tied for 16th with 10 rushing touchdowns. No. 26 will have tough competition if he keeps chugging in the Heisman race, as Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has been unreal this season. Jackson has accounted for 22 touchdowns through the air and 16 with his legs. Barkley still has time to impress the committee with games against Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State to boost his resume.
3. The future is bright for Penn State football.
Although it was during “garbage time”, redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Stevens and freshman running back Miles Sanders looked phenomenal against the Hawkeyes. The game was clearly over when they took the reigns of the offense, but they were electrifying. Stevens is a physical freak when he runs the football. On a play where he lined up in the slow and confused the Iowa defense beyond comprehension, Stevens received the ball from redshirt sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley on a jet sweep and ran through three defenders before crossing the goal line for a 13-yard touchdown. Stevens had another very impressive run on a read option play cutting through the box to open field for 45 yards. Sanders had a couple solid returns in the kicking game early on and finished with some quality runs later in the contest. Stevens totaled 70 yards rushing, while Sanders ended the night with 34. It was exciting to see the prized recruits making a statement against a very stout run defense and gave fans hope in a team without Barkley and McSorley.
4. The run defense is great, but the pass defense is struggling.
Numbers do not lie. Penn State held Iowa’s run heavy offense to 30 total rushing yards and allowed quarterback C.J. Beathard to complete 18 of his 26 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Junior linebacker Jason Cabinda led the Lions with eight total tackles and was a force in the middle. The Blue and White were really impressive in the front seven, stuffing Iowa on multiple third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations. While the secondary was not torched, it did not put on their best performance having many lapses in coverage throughout the game. Against Purdue, Penn State allowed 295 passing yards and 46 rushing yards. It is not a cause for concern, but it is definitely something worth noting for the air attack they face in the Indiana Hoosiers.
5. Penn State has a shot at the Rose Bowl.
The last time the Nittany Lions traveled out to Pasadena, California was in January 2009 to take on the Pete Carroll-led USC Trojans where they lost 38-24. If everything goes correctly, Penn State could make its way back to the Rose Bowl against one of the top Pac-12 conference teams. For it to happen, Penn State would have to win out, and so would Michigan. At 13-0, assuming the Wolverines win the Big 10 championship game, Jim Harbaugh and his squad would be in the College Football Playoffs. At 10-2 theoretically, Penn State holds the tiebreaker over Ohio State and would be ranked higher than the remaining Big 10 teams, sending them to the Rose Bowl for the game of a lifetime.
Zach Seyko is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in communication arts & sciences. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.