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BHGP Film Room: 2002 at Penn State

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Iowa pulls out an overtime victory at Penn St during their special 2002 season

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Iowa v Penn State Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Note: This was inspired by the new Iowa Football Classics page. Catch the full game HERE.


The setup

With a 22 point Iowa lead and under 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Penn State storms back to force overtime in Happy Valley tied at 35. In the 4th quarter Iowa threw an interception in the end zone and fumbled on a play from Penn State’s 1 yard line.

Penn State has won the toss and will start on defense. Iowa has selected the end zone opposite the Penn State student section.


1st and 10: 25 yard line

Iowa opens in I-formation with Mo Brown and C.J. Jones split wide. Dallas Clark is inline to the right side with Fred Russell behind Edgar Cervantes. Brad Banks is the signal caller for the Hawkeyes.

Before Iowa is able to get a play off, they are called for false start. I had forgotten that this was prior to the official announcing who committed the penalty. I’ve watched it quite a few times and I cannot tell.

Iowa comes back with the same formation following the penalty. Penn State ends up bringing all three linebackers on a blitz, and Banks delivers a perfectly timed and placed pass to Brown on an out route. It is good for 11 yards and gets Iowa back on schedule. Should it have been ruled complete?

This is one that definitely would not stand as a reception with replay. Brown never truly secures or completes the process of the catch. Iowa catches a major break here. I have to believe the official was watching his feet, which were inbounds, and never checks to make sure he has the ball. He runs in quickly and emphatically to rule it a catch.

Offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe is keeping with the same formation, and Penn State modifies their 4-3 defensive alignment slightly. This time the Sam linebacker (strong side) is flexed out a little in the flat. Both corners are playing off coverage and the safeties are back in a two-deep shell. O’Keefe has the perfect play call on second down running a tunnel (jailbreak) screen right where Penn State has brought a zone blitz. The Sam linebacker blitzes on the snap and the boundary defensive end drops to the flat after bluffing a rush.

Clark gets just enough of the field cornerback and offensive center Bruce Nelson gets an absolute decleater on the linebacker who had backpedalled into the zone caused by the blitzing linebacker. On the broadcast feed you can actually hear the smack caused by Nelson.

Banks does a great job of leading Jones into open space and doesn’t force him to change directions on the catch. He sprints up field for 14 yards to the 6 yard line.


1st and Goal: 6 yard line

On first down, Iowa stays I-formation but now has Jones and Brown to the field with Clark inline to the boundary. Russell gets the carry to the boundary with Nelson and left guard Eric Stienbach pulling. No gain on the play

Continuing with the theme of repeat formations but Jermelle Lewis replaces Russell at running back. Penn State brings another blitz and the linebacker hurdles the cut attempt by Lewis forcing Banks to double clutch before passing. That’s the difference between a touchdown and the incomplete pass. Iowa runs a smash-corner concept with Brown, on the outside, running a curl and Jones, slot receiver, on a corner route. Banks was not able to release the pass on time and the ball sails just outside and out of bounds. Jones had a step on the corner and this is a touchdown if not for the outstanding play by the linebacker.

Iowa mixes it up on third down replacing Lewis with receiver Ed Hinkel. Cervantes, the fullback, is the lone man behind Banks. Iowa is clearly in a passing formation and Penn State counters by showing pressure. All three linebackers are within three yards of the line of scrimmage and the two near corners are in press coverage. The outside corner, covering Hinkel, is lined up just in front of the goal line and the single high safety is off screen in the end zone in the middle of the field.

The two field linebackers blitz leave man coverage on the receivers with a single safety to help in the middle. Iowa has Clark run up the seam and brings Jones on a shallow cross right under Clark’s hip. This forces the corner to trail Jones as he waits for Clark to clear. The safety correctly reads the play and comes up to help and jump the crossing route, but he takes a poor angle and collides with the corner. It’s another dime by Banks allowing Jones to jog in for the touchdown.

Iowa’s defense was able to hold Penn State out of the end zone and Iowa collected the upset victory on the road during what turned out to be a very memorable season.


This was a wild game featuring huge plays on special teams, explosive plays offensively, and costly turnovers by both teams. Let me know in the comments what other drives you would like to see broken down.