Sure, IOWA JUST BEAT PENN STATE, 24-23. But how much do we really know? What was really important about BEATING PENN STATE? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.
This was not a fluke. It was an upset, eight whole points, but it wasn't a fluke. A "fluke" would be where kicks were missed, passes were dropped in the end zone, or other wildly improbable, directly-scoreboard-influencing strokes of bad luck befell a certain team (and quit fucking whining, BSD, this is a penalty every single time). That didn't happen. Penn State caught a case of the Iowas and couldn't do much in the red zone, and Iowa did the most they could with their limited forays into Penn State territory. They earned the win, fair and square.
That earning, by the way, came in the trenches. Adrian Clayborn might have had the best stats on the line, but there isn't a single member of that defensive line who didn't come up huge, even against the best offensive line they've faced all year. Penn State was effective on the ground, and Iowa almost gave up their first 100-yard rusher of the year (is that a more impressive streak than Greene's 100-yard mark? Discuss).
Meanwhile, PSU DT Jared Odrick was a monster. "Five tackles and a sack" doesn't adequately describe the nightmarish havoc he wrought on Iowa's ground game. Yes, Greene got his 100 yards, but he needed damned near all of the 28 carries to get them; his longest run was his first TD of the game from 14 yards out. That Iowa matched up as well as Penn State did is an awesome testament to the quality of the lines this year.
Stanzi is the Manzi. It was thought that Iowa would need to play a perfect game to beat Penn State, since Penn State never beats themselves. And Stanzi certainly wasn't perfect; his turnovers led to 10 easy PSU points. But damned if he doesn't have ice water in his veins when it matters. The week prior, he guided Iowa to 15 fourth-quarter points to tie the Illinois game. Now, it's two more scoring drives in the final frame, this time against a solid PSU defense.
Would it be nice if Iowa averaged more than 11 points in the first three quarters of their six close games (ISU, Pitt, just Northwestern, MSU, Illinois, PSU)? Erm, yes. But although he exhibits a typical inconsistency for a first-year starter, when he plays with a sense of urgency, the Iowa offense rolls, and that is why Iowa still hasn't really been outplayed yet this season.
It's time to give the defensive secondary a lot of credit. Yes, we have complained endlessly about The Human Torched, Brett Greenwood, and it would ring false if he were actually very good (he's not). Further, just looking at the most basic of stats, Iowa gives up nearly 192 yards per game through the air, which is a pedestrian 42nd best in the nation. So why bring it up?
Because of the vaunted/dreaded Bend But Don't Break defense, Iowa's pass efficiency defense is much better. The Hawkeyes have given up just six touchdowns through the air all season long, while picking off 17 passes. The result is an anemic 98.46 passer rating for opponents on the season, good for 9th best in I-A. Oh, just for comparison's sake, Jake Christensen's rating last year was 116.9.
Sure, there's room for improvement. For example, despite the fact that nearly every one of their opponents has been playing from far behind for most of the second half, USC has given up two passing touchdowns this year. That is not a typo. They give up a paltry 128 yards per game through the air. But USC has far superior athletes, plus they let FS Taylor Mays have a loaded pistol on the field, and usually all he has to do is point it at a quarterback and he throws the ball away. Usually. (RIP Jake Locker)
The point is, save one moment of total horror against Illinois, nobody has gotten behind the Hawkeyes secondary this season; considering the fact that the team is better set up to stop the run (again, no 100-yard rushers all year, and none looming), it's safe to say this defense's yearlong performance, just like last Saturday's, has been fucking awesome.
Cheers to you, boys.
(Photo credits: Stanzi celebrating, John Schultz/QC Times; Greene TD, Andrea Melendez/The Register; Stanzi passing, Matthew Holst/IC Press-Citizen; AJ Edds and Broderick Binns, Chris Donahue/HawkeyeSports.com; Murray celebrating, Chris Donahue/HawkeyeSports.com)