The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

‘This is not a reflection of our team’: Iowa football team after historic loss to Penn State

Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara and other Hawkeye players react to Saturday’s 31-0 loss against Penn State.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara prepares to throw the ball during a football game between No. 24 Iowa and No. 7 Penn State at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes, 31-0. Iowa totaled 76 yards.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara was at the podium for less than five minutes after the Hawkeyes’ 31-0 loss to Penn State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Yet in that short time in the visitors’ media availability room, the Michigan transfer confirmed his confidence in his new team, an attitude that would help fuel the team in the future. 

For McNamara, the team in Black and Gold for those sixty minutes wasn’t the group of guys he knew could perform. Before heading to Happy Valley, Iowa was an undefeated team who averaged 28 points per game, and let up just 12 points to their opponents. 

“I don’t think tonight is a reflection of the offense, the defense, or the special teams,” the Reno, Nevada, native said postgame. “This team is better than what we played tonight. I believe that with my whole heart.” 

Saturday was also the first time Iowa had been shut out in 23 years, the last contest being an Oct. 14 matchup against Illinois in Champaign, the final score also being 31-0. The last time McNamara played in a defeat this large was with the Wolverines in the College Football Playoff in 2021 against Georgia, a 34-11 loss. 

In that game, McNamara was 11/19 passing for 106 yards and two interceptions. In this contest, he was 5-of-14 for 42 yards, his second consecutive game having a less than 50 percent completion percentage. 

“This is the worst feeling in the world,” McNamara said. “I mean, I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt this bad about a game, let alone a day in my life.” 

McNamara explained how the Penn State “D” shut down the Hawkeyes on first and second down, forcing third-and-long situations where the Nittany Lions could rush the passer with extra defenders, creating difficult looks on offense. 

Iowa starting left tackle Mason Richman was unafraid to point out the Hawkeyes’ flaws, explaining how the Iowa offensive line takes pride in their fundamentals, but that those fundamentals weren’t present against the Nittany Lions. On 17 rushing attempts, Iowa lost more than half of the yards they gained, averaging 1.2 yards per carry. 

As for Iowa linebacker Jay Higgins, the senior was complimentary of the defense for ‘maintaining the standard’ at all times, even amid the 97 plays that the unit was on the field for, compared to just 33 for the offense. As one of the older guys in defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s squad, Higgins took personal responsibility for the faults of the “D.” 

“Sometimes our best isn’t our best,” Higgins said. “I feel like tonight was a situation where I could have done a better job putting our defense in a better situation. Hat’s off to the way my guys competed, it’s just really up to me to get this difference.” 

Fellow defensive veteran Joe Evans said the unit needed to have better fundamentals and execution of play calls, but affirmed his loyalty to the offense, saying that in spite of the discrepancy, the bond between the two groups is unbreakable. 

“I’ll tell you one thing: we will not divide,” he said. “We’re going to be together this whole season. That [discrepency in performance] is something I don’t care about.” 

Evans echoed McNamara’s confidence, saying that he would take this Hawkeye roster against any opponent. 

The topic of unity was also not lost in McNamara’s mind, as the quarterback assured this loss would only bring the team closer together and serve as a learning experience. 

“I think this is going to be some serious motivation for us,” McNamara said. “I have an extreme amount of confidence that this team will have success this season.”

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.