Stanley vs. McSorley, a quarterback edge causes defensive stress

Nate Stanley’s passing game confidence will be key against the Nittany Lions while the Hawkeye defense tries to tame Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley hands the ball off to running back Ivory Kelley-Martin during a football game between Iowa and Maryland in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

For the past eight weeks, Iowa football has earned its spot in the top-25 ranking. Now, it enters one of the most important games of its season with a chance to rise.

The No. 18 Hawkeyes will travel to take on No. 17 Penn State in Happy Valley, one of the most intimidating atmospheres in all of college football. Luckily for Iowa, the 2:30 p.m. CDT start takes away a night game disadvantage.

“Anytime you’re on the road, you like to go in and embrace that villain role, you know it’s us versus however many thousand people, and we’re going to come in here and steal one from you,” defensive end Parker Hesse said. “Especially in the Big Ten, you know it’s going to be tough; when you can get a road win like that, it’s a great feeling.”

Not to mention that defending Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley is like going up against 12 guys, said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.

With McSorley at the helm, the Nittany Lion offense is never out of the game, something it proved last season with a win in Kinnick Stadium with a mere tick or two left on the game clock.

“When you play against a guy like this, you have to understand it could [come down to the last play], if in fact you’re in the game,” Ferentz said. “First of all, you got to be in the game. Then the challenge is to try to end it.”

McSorley is a dual-threat quarterback. He ranks second on the team in rushing yards — and it’s not close. Running back Miles Sanders has 772 net yards rushing, with McSorley coming in at 554. Next up is freshman running back Ricky Slade, who has only 155 yards.

RELATED: Iowa football’s offensive line blocks with friendship

Iowa’s advantage comes from its defensive line. The defense has 36 tackles for losses of 200 yards, the majority of which have come from 22 sacks. The challenge will be for the entire Hawkeye defense to be on alert for anything McSorley can do, both on the line and in the secondary.

“Obviously, he’s an extremely dynamic guy throwing the ball and taking the ball and scrambling,” Hesse said. “That’s what makes him dangerous. You can’t just mush-rush him or play a scramble, because then he’ll pick you apart throwing it, too. That’s a great challenge, and I know we’re extremely excited to play a competitor like him.”

On the passing side, McSorley has completed more than half of his passes and has thrown for 1,461 yards through seven games.

McSorley could trip up Iowa’s defense, but Hawkeye quarterback Nate Stanley has that same ability in the passing game. It’s no secret that Iowa’s plays often come on the ground, but Stanley has thrown for more than 1,500 yards with a 61 percent completion rate.

The challenge for Stanley in the passing game is going to be reading the coverage and finding his receivers downfield while avoiding the Blue and White.

“Anytime you play a Big Ten team like them, they’re going to be extremely physical,” Stanley said. “They disguise a lot of things in the back end well, too … a lot of blitzes and coverages.”

Tight end pair Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, along with wide receivers Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith, and Nick Easley, have filled their specific roles in a way that gives opposing defenses few options. Iowa’s offense has gained key playmakers and grown in confidence since its lone loss against Wisconsin on Sept. 22, making this a completely new team.

Facebook Comments