Hawkeyes look to move to 9-1 against Penn State since 2000
The Iowa Hawkeyes(3-1) meet the Penn State Nittany Lions(4-1 and 1-0 in Big Ten play) in Happy Valley Saturday at 3:30 eastern time. Both teams come in with one loss, and both look to improve their conference record early in this Big Ten season.
The Hawkeyes come into this one after a bye week last week. They also are looking to improve their record to 9-1 against Penn State since 2000. Defensively Iowa needed the bye week to regroup after a rough non-conference performance. Through the first four games the Hawkeyes have given up an average of 386 yards per game and 23 points a contest. In its lone loss the defense gave up an astounding 473 total yards to rival Iowa State.
The Hawks have been heavily carried by its offense. After losing 44-41 in a triple overtime loss to the Cyclones in the second week of the season Iowa looked to be headed for another loss against the Pitt Panthers. Down by 17 points with just over 12 minutes to play in the game, junior QB James Vandenberg came up huge. Passing for 162 yards in that quarter alone, Vandenberg finished 31 of 48 for 399 yards and 3 touchdowns while engineering 3 touchdown drives in that final stanza to stun the Panthers 31-27.
On the year Vandenberg has looked sharp throwing for 1,095 yards on 63 percent passing and 10 touchdowns. He has three dangerous targets to toss too. Senior Marvin McNutt, junior Keenan Davis, and freshmen Kevonte Martin-Manley have accounted for 58 catches, 880 yards, and have been on the receiving end of all ten of Vandenberg’s touchdown passes. Mixing in powerful junior RB Marcus Coker has been productive. Coker rushed for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Hawkeyes 45-17 win over UL-Monroe in the last game. On the year he has rushed for 380 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Iowa looks offensively led, but that offense will be facing a tough test Saturday.
Opposite Iowa, Penn State boasts a defense 5th in the country in yards allowed per game and 7th in scoring defense. Playing without star LB Michael Mauti, out for the year with an injury to his left knee, the Lions have done just fine. Allowing just 250 yards a game, Penn State has won games this year playing relentless defense. The Lions struggled in the second week of the season allowing 359 total yards in a 27-11 loss to the 2nd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Since that loss the defense has carried the team.
As the offense struggled early last week against Indiana, the defense held the Hoosiers to just 256 total yards and just 72 yards on the ground. Penn State won that game 16-10 to move to 1-0 in league play. The Nittany Lion defense has allowed just 95 yards rushing a game and in its 4 wins just 70 yards rushing a game.
With no identity, and no proven leader at quarterback, the Penn State offense has experienced limited success doing anything all year and has sputtered for points. Sophomore QB Rob Bolden and junior QB Matt McGloin have each had chances to step up and solidify the quarterback spot. Neither has come through with enough consistency leaving the Lions looking for answers on that side of the ball with conference play now here.
The Lions rank 66th passing nationally and 61st rushing. Along with those troubled numbers, Penn State ranks 93 rd in the country in points per game scoring just 23 a contest. Maybe the most productive player on the Nittany Lion offense has been sophomore RB Silas Reed. Reed has 432 yards on 91 attempts thus far, reaching the end zone 4 times.
Iowa looks to improve on that impressive record against Penn State over the past 9 contests, but is running into one of the best defenses in the country and a whiteout at Beaver Stadium. The team who finds success where it has lacked all year looks to be the favorite in this Big Ten battle.