Iowa failed hard on all 4 keys of the game and just about every other possible thing they could have failed.
First off, let me apologize to everyone. I've learned my lesson not to post "BEST PLAYER EVER!!" type posts half way through the season. I clearly jinxed Mike Meyer and for that, I'm sorry.
Let's start here...the fireworks-cool. Stripes-job good everyone! Tigerhawk on the water tower-maybe they should do that on more than just touchdowns. Hawkeye Marching Band video game tribute-would have been awesome if the Ohio State band hadn't just done it and done it better.
As for the game...ugh. Just ugh. It's hard to even know where to start. I'd love to just rip in to Greg Davis and leave it at that, but the defense was at least equally as bad as the offense. The run game was non-existent, the pass game was awful, the defense was porous, and on and on. Probably the worst part of the game was the injuries to Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal. Scherff was a major reason for Iowa's success running the ball to the left this season...and now he's out for the remainder.
With those two guys out, the offensive line definitely struggled. It's not like they were doing great before, but there was absolutely no running room for Greg Garmon in the second half and Vandenberg was under more pressure than he's had since the first week. He was sacked 4 times) That pressure didn't help the already struggling Vandenberg. He finished the game completing less than 50% of his passes, threw 2 interceptions, and had an awful, awful fumble. Kirk Ferentz said that after the game the thought crossed his mind to put in Jake Ruddock. And yeah, it crossed my mind too.
Iowa did make a change on defense throwing in Nico Law at safety in place of Tom Donatell in the second half...at least on non-passing downs. It was kind of an interesting move, and one I know a lot of fans were hoping for. Donatell has been very solid this season and had 6 tackles in the game. He missed a tackle or two though in this game, so was benched. Nico came in and provided a little bit of a spark with a big hit or two.
Anyway, onto the four factors.
Four Factors in Review
Get stops on 4th down - Penn State only went for it 3 times on fourth down and it wasn't really a factor. Iowa's defense responded with 2 stops. One was at the very start of the second quarter and was actually a pretty big stop. It kept PSU from extending its 14-0 lead and gave Iowa some momentum. The offense responded driving all the way down to the 20 and then Meyer missed his second FG of the game.
The second stop on 4th down came in the 3rd quarter when PSU was up by 31 points. I don't really know what Bill O'Brien was trying to do here. The game was pretty clearly out of reach and they were on their own 36 yard line. I guess he's just being aggressive or something...he also left his starters in the whole game. So there may be something there.
Win on special teams - There were some good things on special teams... Jordan Cotton has proved to be a serious threat at kick returner. He returned a kick for a TD the second week in a row (minus the one taken off the board for the dumb block in the back penalty). He looks like the best returner Iowa's had at least since DJK. I think it's time to put him back there on punt returns too.
Other good things: punting was fine, the blocked field goal, and hey, we at least tried a "surprise" onside kick.
Cover Allen Robinson - Robinson finished with 6 catches for 39 yards and a TD, so this wasn't a complete win. But he was pretty limited. He was targeted 12 times, but only made 6 catches and none were over 10 yards. One of the best defensive plays of the game was by true freshman Sean Draper who had man coverage on Robinson when he looked like he was beat for a sure touchdown but recovered to break up the pass in the endzone.
But the whole idea of shutting down Robinson to slow down the Nittany Lion offense wasn't so good. Matt McGloin found open receivers all over the field. He racked up nearly 300 passing yards and led the offense to over 500 total yards.
I don't really remember the secondary playing bad. They were just a step slow. A lot had to do with the lack of pressure created by the defensive line. After playing their best game as a unit last week against MSU, the D-Line looked awful. They were consistently getting pushed around. The couple of times they did manage to get pressure they ended up whiffing on McGloin who then threw it 40+ yards to set up a touchdown and they got called for roughing the passer. So not good.
And for the second time this season, a team coming off a bye week knew exactly how to attack the Iowa defense. I don't know if Phil Parker is more predictable than Norm, or if it is something else. But teams with extra time are figuring out how to put up a lot of points.
Get the tight ends involved - Well, C.J. Fiedorowicz did lead the team in receptions with 5. But it was just more of the same check down to the TE on 3-yard routes. He averaged 7 yards per catch. Jake Duzey also had one target, but Vandenberg was rushed and missed the throw.
Of the games
Is there really a point of award these things when the whole team played horrible? Probably not.
Player of the game - Jordan Cotton...the kid is fast. He's a legitimate threat as a returner and has turned in to a pretty good number 3 receiver. He had one catch for 13 yards. Greg Davis also busted out the good ol' Paul Chaney end around play using Cotton. It wasn't blocked that well, but Cotton managed to get positive yards.
At this point I'd put Cotton as the most likely replacement for Keenan Davis next year.
Play of the game - Since I already gave one to Cotton, I'll give this on to Keenan. He has down exactly what Greg Davis wants out of the horizontal offense. Keenan took a quick completely horizontal pass at the 18 yard line, put a massive juke on his defender, and stretched out to score Iowa's only offensive touchdown.
Good coaching decision of the game - I guess, maybe, it was good that Kirk Ferentz didn't let Mark Weisman risk getting more hurt. After giving him a couple of series early in the game, it was pretty clear that this game wasn't worth risking Weisman missing more time. My guess is that Weisman probably would have played in the second half if Iowa had gotten a stop on PSU's first series and then did something offensively. Instead, the Hawks went down 31, responded with a prompt Vandenberg interception, and Weisman was done for the day.
The difference a week makes
Last Monday I was talking about Iowa's shared lead of the Legends Division. I wasn't worried at all about getting bowl eligible. Now, sitting at 2-1 behind Michigan 3-0, (who, side note, got extremely lucky to escape with a win over Michigan State--the Spartans totally blew it with bad clock management again), winning the division seems like a too tall task to accomplish. So let's focus on a bowl game. Iowa pretty much needs to win 2 out of the next 3. That's a scary thought. Northwestern may have a terrible defense and like to fail miserably in the 4th quarter of games, but their offense is good enough to score more than Iowa could ever hope. Then is Indiana who almost beat OSU, and Purdue who also almost beat OSU. So yeah.