Hawkeye offense stalls against Penn State

For the second game in a row, the Iowa offense was unable to finish drives with touchdowns, leading to another loss in a winnable game.

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Hawkeye offense stalls against Penn State

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is tackled during the Iowa football game against Penn State in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes 17-12. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is tackled during the Iowa football game against Penn State in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes 17-12. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Katina Zentz

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is tackled during the Iowa football game against Penn State in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes 17-12. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is tackled during the Iowa football game against Penn State in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes 17-12. (Katina Zentz/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

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Two games against ranked teams. Two losses. 15 points scored.

The Iowa offense was, for the second game in a row, unable to match the level of play of the Hawkeye defense, resulting in a 17-12 loss to Penn State on Saturday.

In the past two games, Iowa has rushed for only 71 yards and allowed 10 sacks, which is not going to win many football games, especially against teams like Michigan and Penn State.

Iowa hasn’t put points on the board in very winnable games the past two weeks. Against both opponents, the Hawkeyes found opportunities to drive the ball down the field to either tie the game or take the lead.

They would do neither both times.

“I would say it’s a little frustrating because you want to win these games,” wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette said. “You want to be the team that comes out successful in these close battles and be a team where whenever it gets tough, we’re able to stick it out.”

Quarterback Nate Stanley attempted 43 passes against the Nittany Lions. In a similar fashion, he threw the ball 42 times a week ago against Michigan.

The running game has seemingly been abandoned from Iowa’s repertoire of plays in back-to-back weeks in close games. When the Hawkeyes decided to run the ball against Penn State, it was not effective.

Between Stanley and running backs Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young, and Tyler Goodson, Iowa averaged 2.3 yards per attempt.

“I don’t know where [the running game] is at,” offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs said. “There’s a couple good runs in there and then we just kind of stall out. Then the bad things tend to snowball. We’ve just got to work on forgetting stuff, forgetting about a bad play instead of dwelling on it and letting it lead to another thing.”

The passing game hasn’t been pretty for the Hawkeyes as of late, either. While Iowa found some success in the quick passing game against Penn State, the offense stalled in the red zone. Aside from a late-game heroic catch by Brandon Smith, the passing offense — and the offense in general — has been missing out on the big play.

Stanley has also been getting hit consistently with constant pressure from opposing defenses, leading to sacks and turnovers. Stanley threw a combined four interceptions against Michigan and Penn State after not turning the ball over in Iowa’s first four games.

Iowa has film to dissect and new game plans to create after consecutive disappointing outings from the offense. The tools appear to be present for the Hawkeyes to both move the ball on offense and to score touchdowns.

Now, it’s just a matter of working to the point in which the offense can take full advantage of the opportunities in front of it.

“It always passes,” Stanley said. “As long as we continue to put our heads to the grindstone and do what we need to do on a daily basis, this is going to pass, and we will get through it. We are going to come out the other side of the tunnel. We believe in everybody and each other and that message, and we are going to continue to work toward it.”

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