On a perfect fall day in University Park, the Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1, 2-0 B1G) defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes (3-2, 0-1) 13-3 before a non-sellout Beaver Stadium crowd of 103,497. Blame the STEP program for the empty seats, methinks.
Although the Hawkeyes have long been a problem for the Lions, I’ve always liked and respected them. First of all, they wear Steelers’ uniforms. Of equal importance, they have a great head coach, Kirk Ferentz.
Penn State’s defense dominated the game, which was destined to be a low scoring field goal contest despite what Phil Grosz might have predicted. This Turkey had it right — take the damn “under”. (The O/U was 45.5 — a no-brainer for this pair of teams). Alas, the Turkey also thought the score would end up closer than it did, not covering the 4.5 point spread. Figuring that the margin would be a single field goal, I was looking good until McGloin hit Haplea for a TD halfway through the final stanza.
Stanza? Sportswriter Thesaurus stuff. The word reminds me that the Hawkeyes sure looked like they could have used their multi-year starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi. His replacement, junior James Vandenburg was 17-34 for only 169 yards and two interceptions.
The PSU quarterback tandem roughly equaled the Iowa passing yardage on a 15-26 effort, which included the aforementioned touchdown pass by McGloin, as well as an embarrassing red zone interception, also by the ruddy lad with the Irish flag mouth piece. McGloin has the better day and took more snaps than Bolden, who is beginning to look to this Turkey as if he will not be “ready” this season. Bolden cannot seem to hit receivers accurately, even though he has an NFL caliber arm. (So did Morelli, and you see what that got him.) He seems to lack poise in the pocket, like he’s nervous or uncomfortable there. McGloin wasn’t perfect, as I mentioned, and he might not have the rifle of an arm Bolden has, but his stats were promising: 12-19 for 133 yards with one TD and one INT. Bolden was 3-7 for 31 yards.
Interestingly enough, former Gator coach Urban Meyer, doing the color commentary for ESPN/ABC insisted that McGloin would be his man if he were coaching. He’s the Turkey’s man, too. I’m no Urban Meyer, and I don’t play one on TV, but I think at this point any football idiot who read Football for Dummies by Rich Rodriguez would make the same assessment. Throughout the weekend, rumors swirled on message boards that the PSU administration had been involved in talks with Meyer about the head coaching job. One of the ostensible reasons, other than Meyer’s record, is that one of his possible destinations is Ohio State, being from Ohio, and we sure as hell wouldn’t want him coaching against Penn State. A pre-emptive strike. But hey, wouldn’t that require Joe to step down first? When’s that going to happen? I thought so. Joe will leave when he’s ready. Meyer has attempted to quash the rumor. As of the time I’m writing this, the kebash has been applied to that whole thang, with PSU Athletic Director Tim Curley issuing a waffled statement semi-denying that anything of the sort did or will happen, maybe, possibly.
It was back to fundamentals for the Nittany Lion offense. Bo and Woody would have been congratulating Paterno on his “three yards and a cloud of dust” wisdom. Ball control football, with a very good runner like Silas Redd, keeps the defense fresh, and it showed in this game. The Lions held the ball for almost 36 minutes overall. Redd has a great day, with 142 yards on 28 carries. His backup, Curtis Dukes, added 60 yards on nine carries. Overall, the Lions were able to ring up 231 yards on the ground. Nice!
Against Penn State’s staunch defense, the Hawkeyes could manage only 253 total yards. Their primo runner, sophomore Marcus Coker, was held to 74 yards and Vandenberg added 10 yards to total 84 skimpy yards for the ‘Eyes.
An encouraging sign for the remainder of the season is that Anthony Fera was 2/2 on field goal tries, although the long one was 20 yards. That statistic, my friends, is disturbing. Once again the Lions show that they cannot execute inside the opponent’s 30 yard-line. Although I can give Iowa’s somewhat inexperienced defense credit for stiffening up, this has been a perennial problem for these boys. It sucks, too. But you knew that. In my cynical prediction (18-15 PSU), I anticipated six field goals by PSU, simply because they don’t seem to be able to cash in for six once in the opponent’s red zone, no matter who the opponent is. To emphasize this shortcoming, not to make you sick, I will recap the drives that reached the Hawkeyes’ 30:
- PSU drives to the 2. (FG)
- PSU drives to the 3. (FG)
- PSU drives to the 6. (INT)
- PSU drives to the 2. (TD)
So, there you go. Four trips inside the six — the six, damnit! — and only 13 points to show for it. Something is wrong there.
I have to congratulate the offensive line on its newfound ability to open up holes for Silas Redd, but they’ve still got a long way to go. The red zone issues are partly on their backs.
A win is a win, though, and overall, the boys deserve credit for maintaining their enthusiasm throughout the game, beating a long-time nemesis. Expect their winning ways to continue next week, as the hapless Boilermakers of Purdue invade the Beave for a noon Homecoming game.
I’ll be back later in the week with a preview and prediction for the Purdue game.