Iowa football not preparing like Penn State is 0-4

The Nittany Lions may be winless thus far, but the Hawkeyes are prepping for them as if they’re undefeated.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras attempts a pass during a football game between Iowa and Michigan State in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. The Hawkeyes dominated the Spartans, 49-7.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

When Indiana traveled to Happy Valley on Oct. 24 — the first full day of Big Ten football in 2020 — and defeated then eighth-ranked Penn State, many around the country called it the biggest upset of the week.

It’s turns out the 36-35 overtime thriller wasn’t such an upset after all. Indiana and Penn State have each found themselves on surprising streaks through the first four games of the year. While the Hoosiers have yet to lose a game, the Nittany Lions have yet to win one.

After dropping a close game to the previously winless Nebraska Cornhuskers last Saturday — a contest in which Penn State benched its quarterback in the second quarter after falling behind 24-3 before the end of the first half — Saturday’s game could see a downtrodden Nittany Lions team take the field, or one that is motivated enough to get its first W.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is preparing his Hawkeye team for the latter.

“They’re a very impressive team,” Ferentz said. “Pretty much talented at every position. Certainly better than their record right now. If you look at them statistically, they’re a very impressive football team that for whatever reason have come up short.”

Ferentz doesn’t believe that Iowa will overlook Penn State— a team that the Hawkeyes haven’t beaten in over a decade — because of the things he has seen on film this week.

Ferentz also referenced his time as a graduate assistant for Iowa 40 years ago, the first time he saw the team from State College up close.

“All you have to do is look at the film,” Ferentz said. “I go back to 1980, that was my first trip there as a coach, I was a grad assistant. I can’t remember ever being on the field where their guys don’t look really good and then play really well and play hard. So, when our guys look at the film, unless they’re just delusional, they’re seeing what we’re seeing: A lot of guys that are good football players. Things just aren’t quite clicking yet. And my guess is it’s going to at some point, I just hope it isn’t this Saturday.”

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Wide receiver Tyrone Tracy believes that while Penn State has struggled this season and he and his fellow receivers may be able to exploit the Nittany Lions’ defense, the preseason top-10 opponent cannot be overlooked.

“They’re still Penn State,” Tracy said. “Just from looking at a couple of days of film, they’ve had a couple of miscommunications on defense. Half the defense is running something and half the defense is running something else. They’ve still got great athletes on the whole roster. We’ve just got to treat them as if they’re 4-0 and seventh-ranked in the nation. As if it’s still the same Penn State that beat us the past three years.”

The Nittany Lion defense has allowed 30 points or more in every game this season and ranks 94th out of 126 FBS teams in scoring defense.

While the defensive backfield might be a weakness, Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras will have to make quick decisions against the defensive front that likes to rush the quarterback with different packages.

“They bring a lot of pressure,” Petras said. “They like to blitz. They’ll bring anything. So, I’m making sure I’m familiar with all the looks and knowing what plays we want to run and what we don’t according to the look we get. They’re a very talented team, so, gotta bring our A-game.”

Even though Penn State may not be living up to the hype this year, with a win Saturday, in only his fifth game at the helm, Petras would be the first Iowa quarterback to beat the Nittany Lions since Ricky Stanzi.

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