If you had told me sometime before 6:43 PM yesterday that Penn State would score only 21 points against Iowa, I would be elated. If you also told me Saquon Barkley would rack up a school record 358 all-purpose yards I would be torn and confused.
And that’s sort of how I feel now.
And I think thats how a lot of you might feel now in the aftermath of the gut-wrenching 21-19 loss Iowa suffered at the hands of No. 4 Penn State last night in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium.
It feels foolish to say when you look at the box score, but Iowa slowed the game down. It really did. We limited Penn State’s offense and defense, and somehow held a 7-5 advantage at half after a Josey Jewell interception led to a Nick Easley touchdown. Iowa was outgained 221-54 in the first frame, and was winning.
Football is weird, and Kinnick has cosmic properties.
Make no mistake. This was the Saquon Barkley show. He did things that very, very few can. And it feels foolish saying, but Iowa limited him the best it could despite his gaudy numbers. Trace McSorley was rendered human, and his 31-48, 284-yard performance shows that. He threw the interception to Jewell, and his only touchdown came at the end. His 61 net rushing yards is a testament to the respect this defense had to commit to Barkley.
He was sacked 4 times. The Iowa defensive line that we heard about in camp showed up today. Anthony Nelson got to McSorley 2.5 times. AJ Epenesa did once. Cedrick Lattimore cleaned the PSU QB up once with Nelson. Nelson also blocked two passes, while the D line as a whole swatted 4. The defense was nothing short of magnificent.
Josey Jewell had a career-high 16 tackles. Three for a loss, a couple pass break-ups and an interception. He’s one of the best to ever wear the jersey and it showed. This defense was on the field for 19 minutes and 30 seconds for the entire first half, and still only allowed three points. Phil Parker is a goddam wizard, and we’re lucky he hasn’t found himself a head coaching job elsewhere (or doesn’t have the desire to).
The offense, obviously, sputtered. Take away Akrum Wadley’s 35-yard touchdown run, and he has just 45 rushing yards on 18 carries. He was the only running back to see any action at all. A change of pace was needed, and I’m not sure why the coaches couldn’t see that.
I’m also not sure what compelled Brian Ferentz to call a pitch in the end zone. It led to a safety. It probably cost Iowa the game. No one wants to hear about moral victories (and I don’t want to write about them) but this team, and BF, learned a lot last night. Brian Ferentz did soil his khakis however, and that does make me sad.
Nathan Stanley looked fine. He wasn’t magnificent. The overthrows weren’t as egregious as we’ve seen, mostly because I don’t think the receivers got as good of separation as they have in the past. The offensive line protected him as well as they have all year, and he never turned it over. Akrum Wadley was his favorite target, and he only found Noah Fant once for 13 yards. Penn State knew his tendencies and made him do things he hadn’t done before.
Wadley had an incredibly costly fumble in the third quarter, but Iowa got some officiating calls I’ve never seen the Hawkeyes get. Everything seemed to even itself out on the field. Everything found equilibrium within Kinnick.
But that’s all I really want to say about the game. I want to now vent, and provide a place to heal.
I’ve only been a fan of the Hawkeyes since I enrolled in 2010. I’m an infant compared to most of you, but this is the most pain I’ve felt from a loss. The Rose Bowl was over after the kickoff, forgotten about five minutes after it started. I was at the Big Ten Championship game, and I still slept soundly that night.
This was something different. This was 200 minutes of cardiac arrest. This was one week of watching Trace McSorley do his stupid home run swing celebration on ESPN commercials. This was watching a 10-minute segment about how great Saquon Barkley is on Gameday, and then everyone going and picking the Nits to win. This was the overhead camera on TV showing only the Penn State huddle, and never the Iowa one. This was ABC interviewing James Franklin and not Kirk Ferentz at half, despite the former losing to the latter. This was reading long-form features about the Penn State offensive coordinator in Sports Illustrated. This was Gameday being held in Times Square and not Iowa City.
Sure, the Kinnick Wave got its facetime in, but we’re going to see that every home game for the rest of our lives. Penn State got a weeklong worth of punditry on national TV leading up to the game, and was hyped all game long. It sounded like they were doing Iowa a favor by coming to our house to play.
This sounds dramatic, but I’ve never cared more about team more than I do this one. Last night proved we will compete with the rest of the teams on our slate. I see no reason why Iowa can’t find itself back in Indianapolis in a couple months. Ohio State hasn’t shown anything, and Wisconsin is tough, sure, but isn’t on par with this Penn State team. Iowa got that confounding “good loss” notch in its belt early this season, and will only grow from here. Brian Ferentz will learn. Nate Stanley will blossom. Josey Jewell will lead. The rest of the team will come together as a cohesive unit and flourish.
This season could be special. And we might have seen the spark last night. Not only do we want to believe that. We have to.
Next up is Michigan State. I hope we give them hell.
Have a great Sunday everyone, and go Hawks.