Grading Iowa’s 41-21 victory over Penn State

Another complete performance has the Hawkeyes over .500 for the first time this season.


Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 21, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz reacts to a play against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the third quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — For the third week in a row, the Iowa football team’s report card is favorable.

That will happen when you defeat a rival for the first time in a decade. The Hawkeye blew out the Nittany Lions, 41-21, to improve to 3-2 on the season. That’s all the more impressive considering the 0-2 hole Iowa was in just a few weeks ago.

Here’s how The Daily Iowan grades Iowa’s victory in State College.

Offense — B+

The ground game was in control again for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns against Penn State. Mekhi Sargent led the way with 101 rushing yards and two scores, while Tyler Goodson provided 78 yards and a touchdown of his own on the ground.

Spencer Petras is still taking steps as Iowa’s starting quarterback. Yes, he threw balls over the heads of his receivers at times. But he didn’t turn the ball over and successfully led a two-minute drill at the end of the first half. At the end of the game, he completed 18 passes to eight different receivers for 186 yards.

That’s not going to necessarily win Iowa games on its own, but it won’t lose them either if the running game continues to impress. Right now, as Petras progresses, that may be all Iowa can ask for.

Defense — A-

Iowa was two Sean Clifford touchdown passes away from an even better grade on defense.

The Hawkeyes suffocated the Nittany Lions’ offense for most of the night. Penn State only ran for 62 yards and committed four turnovers on the night. Iowa tallied 10 tackles for loss and five sacks.

I would love to see what this defense could do over the course of a full season.

Special teams — B-

This was Iowa’s most average game on special teams all season — which says more about the strength of Hawkeye special teams than it does about how the unit performed against Penn State.

Keith Duncan missed a 50-yard field goal attempt, but nailed his two other kicks from shorter distances.

Punting phenomenon Tory Taylor averaged 44.4 yards per punt on five attempts. That’s some quality punting, but comes across as average compared to how he has played so far this season. Taylor’s long was 47 yards, and only one of his punts was downed inside Penn State’s one-yard line.

A couple promising punt returns from Charlie Jones were negated by penalties, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette gained only 25 yards on his only kickoff return of the day.

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