Nov. 8, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Penn State might have made Iowa’s offense play left-handed, but it couldn’t make it play left-footed.
A 31-yard field goal off the right foot of sophomore kicker Daniel Murray with one second remaining gave the Hawkeyes a 24-23 victory over No. 3 Penn State in a game when Iowa overcame two nine-point deficits.
“The decision-point of the week was today,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said on when he decided to send Murray out for the final field goal, rather than freshman Trent Mossbrucker. “We favored experience in that situation.”
The winning drive was set up after safety Tyler Sash interecepted a pass with 3:46 left in the game, returning it 14 yards to the Iowa 29.
At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Nov. 5, Ferentz said he thought the Nittany Lion defense would try to make Iowa play `left-handed,’ or away from its powerful Shonn Greene-led running game. On paper, that didn’t happen, although this was a day when you could rip up the stat sheet and let it sail away into a 25-mile an hour cross wind and into the 35-degree night. Greene sprinted and bulled his way to 117 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns as the Hawkeyes improved to 6-4 overall, 3-3 in the Big Ten. Iowa has now become bowl-eligible for the eighth consecutive season. Penn State is 9-1, 5-1. This is the first win for the Hawkeyes over a top 5 team since a 54-28 vi ctory at No. 5 Illinois on Nov. 3, 1990, and the first win over a top 10 team since a 30-7 decision against Wisconsin on Nov. 20, 2004.
“I’m very, very happy for our football team,” Ferentz said. “It was a very hard-fought game. Penn State is an outstanding football team and it took everything we had today to get the win. At the end of the day, the credit goes to our players. I was proud of their effort and proud of the staff.”
Iowa has played five games decided by five points or less this season and now has a 1-4 record in those games. The four losses have come by a combined 12 points.
By the end of the battle, the figures were nearly as even as the final score. But that wasn’t the case after the first 30 minutes. The statistical deception was most glaring in the first half when the scoreboard and the halftime stat sheet hinted at two totally different games. Although the Hawkeyes trailed by just six points at the break, it was Penn State that ruled the numbers. The Nittany Lions ran 21 more plays (32-11), had 13 more first downs (18-5), gained 133 more yards (203-70) and chewed up 17 more minutes of clock (23:34-6:26). And still, thanks to a huge initial defensive series, Iowa was in fairly sound position prior to the second-half kickoff. By the time Murray’s field goal zipped through the center of the goal posts, the Hawkeyes crept close to Penn State in first downs (24-19) and total yards (289-272). Iowa converted 7 of 10 times on third down and controlled 17:42 of the final 30 minutes.
“I’m very, very happy for our football team. It was a very hard-fought game. Penn State is an outstanding football team and it took everything we had today to get the win. At the end of the day, the credit goes to our players. I was proud of their effort and proud of the staff.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed 15 of 25 passes for 171 yards, a touchdown and an intercetion. Derrell Johnson-Kouloianos caught seven passes for 89 yards and a score and Brandon Myers hauled in four passes for 42 yards. Three Hawkeye defenders — Jeremiha Hunter, Pat Angerer and Brett Greenwood had 12 tackles apiece. A.J. Edds added 11. Adrian Clayborn had six stops, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
First it was the defense that sparked the Hawkeyes, then Greene and the offensive line put a brief and bold exclamation point to the first 66 seconds of the contest. The first series by Penn State included two incomplete passes by Daryll Clark and a sack and lost fumble on third-and-10. Christian Ballard and Matt Kroul had quarterback hurries on the first two plays and Clayborn was credited with a sack and forced fumble on third down. It appeared that Ballard came up with the fumble for a touchdown, but officials said Clark recovered the fumble at the Penn State 1. Andy Brodell returned the ensuing punt 10 yards to the Nittany Lion 25 and then Greene and the O-line took over. On first down, Greene ran off left tackle for 11 yards. On second down he again darted off the left side and didn’t stop until he found the end zone 14 yards away. The PAT kick by Mossbrucker gave Iowa a 7-0 lead with 13:54 left in the first quarter.
Penn State’s second drive of the game was a study in contrast to its first. The Nittany Lions controlled 9:43 of the clock while driving 71 yards on 19 plays. Iowa retained a 7-3 lead by holding Penn State to a 24-yard field goal by Kevin Kelly with 4:11 left in the first quarter. The Hawkeye defense came up big after the Nittany Lions were faced with first-and-goal from the Iowa 2. Evan Royster was stopped for no gain, Clark threw an incomplete pass (hurry by Broderick Binns) and Royster was stopped for a 5-yard loss by Karl Klug and Mitch King.
The Hawkeyes ran just five offensive plays in the first quarter (Penn State had 26) and still managed two first downs and a four-point lead. The Nittany Lions had possession 12:48 during the first quarter.
Penn State continued to control the clock and the Kinnick turf during an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Royster scoring on a 2-yard run. The Nittany Lions ran 5:02 off the clock and took a 10-7 edge.
Kelly’s second field goal of the half — this one from 31 yards with 55 seconds left before halftime — gave Penn State a 13-7 lead. It capped the Nittany Lion’s longest scoring drive of the season (16 plays, 78 yards, 8:18).
Penn State linebacker Tyrell Sales set the tone early in the second half by intercepting a Stanzi pass and returning it to the Hawkeye 29. Again Iowa’s defense stiffened and limited the Nittany Lions to a 25-yard field goal by Kelly, making the score 16-7. The interception came on first down, one play after the Hawkeyes converted on third down for the first time with a 6-yard pass from Stanzi to Greene. It marked the first of two nine-point deficits the Hawkeyes erased.
Stanzi and Johnson-Koulianos hooked up on three pass completions for 47 yards on the second Iowa drive of the second half, including a 27-yard touchdown with 4:43 left in the third quarter, reducing Penn State’s lead to 16-14. It was the longest drive of the day for the Hawkeyes — 73 yards on 10 plays.
The Nittany Lions scored 10 points in the third quarter off two Iowa turnovers to take a 23-14 lead heading into the final quarter. With the Hawkeyes down by two and following back-to-back strong runs by Greene (for 12 yards), a snap didn’t reach Stanzi’s hands and Penn State linebacker Josh Hull recovered at the Iowa 28. Four plays late Derrick Williams took a direct snap and ran nine yards for a touchdown with 29 seconds left in the third quarter.
Greene topped 100 rushing yards for the 10th consecutive game bringing the Hawkeyes back to within two points at 23-21 with 9:20 remaining. A 6-play, 44-yard scoring drive by Iowa included four rushes by Greene (for 19 yards) and two pass completions from Stanzi to Myers (for 18 yards and seven yards).
Iowa concludes the home portion of its season Saturday, Nov. 15, against Purdue (3-7, 1-5). The game begins at 11 a.m. and will be broadcast by the Big Ten Network. Last season the Boilermakers defeated Iowa 31-6 in West Lafayette.
“We have two more games to play and both are going to be tough,” Ferentz said.