Iowa set to face off against a top-10 opponent under the Kinnick lights

After an ugly game against Michigan, Iowa's takeaways will help it battle with Penn State at home.

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Iowa set to face off against a top-10 opponent under the Kinnick lights

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley yells out before a play during a football game between Iowa and Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, October 5, 2019. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes 10-3.

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley yells out before a play during a football game between Iowa and Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, October 5, 2019. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes 10-3.

Wyatt Dlouhy

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley yells out before a play during a football game between Iowa and Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, October 5, 2019. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes 10-3.

Wyatt Dlouhy

Wyatt Dlouhy

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley yells out before a play during a football game between Iowa and Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, October 5, 2019. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes 10-3.

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

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On Saturday night, a gold Iowa football team will walk out of the tunnel into an ANF-striped Kinnick Stadium with something to prove.  

After an offensive nightmare that resulted in a 10-3 loss to Michigan a week ago, the No. 17 Hawkeyes take on the No. 10 Nittany Lions in a game that could define the kind of season Iowa will have. 

The past two meetings against Penn State have gone down to the wire, and the Kinnick atmosphere isn’t something that is lost on the Hawkeyes. 

“They [were] both dogfights,” safety Geno Stone said. “You know there’s probably going to be a tough game again, probably a close game, so we’ve just got to be ready for this. It comes down to who wants it more at the end of the day.” 

Penn State won’t make it easy, however. It boasts the second-best offense in the Big Ten, a dual-threat quarterback that Iowa will have to contain, and a defense that leads the conference in sacks per game. 

After being sacked eight times against Michigan, that’s not good news for quarterback Nate Stanley. 

“[Penn State] is another really, really talented defense, and we know that,” center Tyler Linderbaum said. “We’ve just been detailing our stuff this week, just have a little pep in our step, just being ready to go because we know we’re going to have another challenge.”

Iowa lost 65 yards on eight sacks and 60 yards on eight offensive penalties, which resulted in drives being pushed out of scoring range for both Stanley and kicker Keith Duncan. 

RELATED: Iowa’s rushing game is looking to improve against Penn State

The Hawkeyes were in the red zone once when they put up three on the board to open the second quarter. Late in the game, Stanley converted a fourth down nearing the red zone but failed to capitalize on the next third down for another wasted drive.

The three interceptions didn’t help, either. 

“I think we had five, six drives that ended between the 40 and the 35, just barely out of field goal range where we may have pushed ourselves back with penalties or sacks,” Stanley said. “I feel like we were close, we moved the ball in other areas of the field, we just stalled ourselves out when we got down on [Michigan’s] side of the field.” 

On the offensive side without Trace McSorley at quarterback for the Nittany Lions, Iowa’s defense will still face challenges in Sean Clifford. He commands a passing offense that is second to Michigan State in the Big Ten.

“I think maybe as impressive as anything right now, they graduated a tremendous player, competitor at the quarterback position, and this guy has jumped in and done a really nice job,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That doesn’t seem to be a big issue for them right now.”

For Iowa to compete with Penn State, it has to fix the offensive line problems from a week ago and play team football.

The Nittany Lions have the ability to tear down both offenses and defenses with the way they move the ball. Their biggest challenge now is battling Iowa’s 12th man in the Kinnick atmosphere. 

“We are playing a team that’s a top-10 football team and certainly worthy of that,” Ferentz said. “They are playing with great confidence and momentum. They come in here, they are really doing well, typical of any Penn State team we have played through the years.”

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