McSorley and Company hand Iowa loss No. 2 of 2018

The Hawkeyes had a shot to win in the fourth quarter after blowing a 12-0 lead, but in the end, Penn State's defense made plays down the stretch.


Nick Rohlman

Iowa wide receiver Kyle Groeneweg (14) trips as the ball sails over his head and out of bounds during Iowa's game against Penn State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, October 27, 2018. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes 30-24.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Iowa faced a first-and-goal at the Penn State 3-yard line.

Quarterback Nate Stanley dropped back to pass, looking in the direction of running back Toren Young, but his pass sailed into the arms of Nittany Lion safety Nick Scott, and just like that, Iowa’s last-ditch effort at an upset flew out of reach.

But before the play, chaos erupted.

“I wanted to change the play,” Stanley said. “Should have just taken a timeout.”

Iowa didn’t lose because a timeout wasn’t called, however. The Hawkeye offense failed to produce anything consistently for most of the game, resulting in Penn State controlling the momentum for most of the second half.

Geno Stone’s Pick-6 in the fourth quarter not only made things interesting, but it cut Penn State’s lead to just 3 points. The Nittany Lions kicked a field goal to go up by 6 before Stanley’s interception.

It was a matter of too little, too late, for the Hawkeyes, who had an early lead but fumbled it away.

Everything that could have gone wrong for Penn State went wrong in the first quarter.

A blocked punt resulted in a safety, a plethora of penalties, and falling for a special-teams fake (with beautiful execution on Iowa’s part) resulted in a 12-0 hole for the Nittany Lions.

“We get a team down like that, we got to extend that lead, we got to put them behind their game plan,” defensive lineman Parker Hesse said. “… They weren’t able to stray too far from what they wanted to do.”

But just as problems seemed to pile on Penn State, the momentum shifted in its favor. A substantial 10-play, 85-yard drive for the Nittany Lions cut the deficit to 5 points, but then quarterback Trace McSorley went down with a right-knee injury.

However, the Hawkeyes never capitalized. Another safety after a wild snap over Penn State’s punter pushed the Hawkeye lead to a touchdown, but Nate Stanley’s interception before halftime changed the tide.

The Hawkeye quarterback threw a pass right to Nittany Lion John Reid, and he returned the ball inside the Iowa 5. The next play, backup quarterback Tommy Stevens (in for McSorley after his injury) scored on a run, tying the game.

Just like Michael Myers, McSorley returned to haunt Iowa just four days before Halloween.

The senior torched the Hawkeye defense on a 51-yard touchdown run on Penn State’s first drive of the second half, putting the Nittany Lions up, 24-17.

It didn’t stop there.

McSorley finished the game with 167 yards through the air and 63 on the ground, and Iowa just did not have an answer for him and the rest of the Penn State offense. It wasn’t as if he was torching Iowa on every single play; McSorley made plays, both through the air and on his feet, that kept the Hawkeye defense guessing at times.

McSorley will finish his Nittany-Lion career undefeated against Iowa, winning three times.

“He’s a really good football player,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Didn’t have his best night, that was clear, but good players hit tough times, good teams do, and the good ones bounce back.”

In 2016, he finished 11-of-18 for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 14 times for 40 yards and a touchdown. The next season, McSorley went 31-of-48 for 284 yards, 1 touchdown, and an interception, while also running for 61 yards.

Oh, and he also threw the game-winning touchdown as time expired in 2017.

But although the Hawkeye defense couldn’t stop McSorley and Company, the Hawkeye offense didn’t do its defense any favors.

The offense gained 350 yards, but 120 of those came on Iowa’s final two possessions. Iowa had 12 drives (excluding a kneel to end the first half) totaling 232 yards.

Stanley finished 18-of-49 for 205 yards, with 2 interceptions.

Now, Iowa has a week of preparation before traveling to West Lafayette, Indiana, to play Purdue on Nov. 3 in a 2:30 p.m. contest.

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