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THE MOURNING AFTER — PENN STATE

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Well that wasn’t fun.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Penn State
Beaver Stadium should have artificial turf.
Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry to disappoint, but this is going to be a calm and rational take about what happened yesterday afternoon and evening.

Shocking, I know.

Iowa lost to Penn State in a stadium where it hasn’t won a game since 2009. They lost by six points and had a chance to score a touchdown and go up by a point and would have left around three minutes left on the clock. Instead they threw an interception.

The Hawkeyes then got a stop and forced Penn State to punt and drove to the Nittany Lion 44 with no timeouts and 1:23 left on the clock. And this is a team who is the antithesis of a ‘quick strike’ offense.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz certainly had their gaffes. I think it’s rather obvious the Hawkeyes tried to get way too complicated on a wet *grass* field when smashmouth football would have won the day.

After the fake field goal, a touchdown to Sam Brincks, Iowa should have shut the playbook on trick plays. There’s something to be said for getting something crazy to work once, but after that... you need to stick to your execution.

Letting Penn State get a field goal before halftime felt like a bad omen and so it was. And it was one of these bad plays (that felt like classic overthinking) that led to this in the first place.

But it was hardly just the tip of the iceberg of things that went wrong in this game.

Offensively Iowa had an extremely up-and-down day, especially Nate Stanley. The junior quarterback had one of the worst games of his career when the Hawkeyes needed him to have one of his better ones.

In hindsight, it really felt like the TJ Hockenson overthrow on 3rd and 1 with around 11 minutes left in the first half was a major turning point in the game. Get that, the Hawkeyes go up 21-7 and don’t look back.

But, it didn’t happen and Iowa ended up punting on that possession. Penn State drove a bit, punted and then Stanley threw an interception. The Nittany Lions scored on the next possession and Iowa would respond with a field goal to break the tie. That lead lasted for a little over four minutes — those fleeting minutes would be the last time the Hawkeyes led.

Then the aforementioned stupid fake punt/trick play/who really knows what that was on 4th and 10, Penn State scored and that was pretty much all she wrote.

Stanley ended up 18-of-49 for 205 yards (22 of those yards came on the final drive) and threw two interceptions. He had no touchdowns. He was sacked three times and Iowa’s offensive line — especially Alaric Jackson — struggled mightily, both with penalties and protection.

Iowa’s running game was hit-and-miss. Mekhi Sargent had a fairly solid game as Toren Young struggled and Ivory Kelly-Martin got injured.

Noah Fant, I don’t think, was even on the field for the final, last-gasp drive. That was probably a fairly big error in hindsight. Perhaps it was more of a matchup thing, who knows.

In the grand scheme of things, this loss hurts. Iowa’s now 6-2, with a tough games against Northwestern and Purdue ahead. That’s not a bad record and it still seems fairly likely that Iowa could end up with 9 or 10 wins this year. I mean, hell, a Rose Bowl isn’t completely out of the picture and neither is a Big Ten Championship berth.

Are things more complicated now? Yes. Have there now been two games where Iowa maybe should have won that they ended up losing? Yes. Is this frustrating? Incredibly.

That said, there’s still four regular season games left to play. Let’s see what happens. I’m not quite ready to bury this season.