Sept. 26, 2009
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STATE COLLEGE, Penn. – The nation was introduced to another Big Ten Conference title contender Saturday night in Happy Valley – the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Unbeaten in its first three games and barely getting a sniff from the national pollsters, Kirk Ferentz’s squad ventured into Beaver Stadium and their prime time date with the nationally ranked Penn State Nittany Lions 10-point underdogs to a team driven to make good on last year’s painful loss in Iowa City. They walked out 4-0 after riding a Hawkeye trademark – a stout defense – and special special teams play and an offense determine to make a difference to a 21-10 victory.
The win was Ferentz’s seventh against Penn State in eight tries. It was the Hawkeyes’ fourth in their last five trips to State College.
It all started up front as far as Ferentz is concerned – and include the offensive front five in that count.
Iowa was stunned by a 79-yard touchdown pass on Penn State’s first play from scrimmage. Nittany Lion quarterback Daryl Clark then completed his next four passes. But, then, slowly but surely, as it has done the last two weeks, the Hawkeye defense became dominant.
Clark completed just seven of his next 27 attempts. He was intercepted three times. And, take away the 79-yarder that opened the game and another 39-yard completion, Clark simply struggled against an Iowa “D” that kept charging.
The game was turned by the Iowa defense and, in fact, one Iowa defender – Adrian Clayborn gave Iowa its first lead at 11-10 when he blocked a Penn State punt then picked up the pigskin and scooted like a fullback 53 yards to paydirt.
Iowa’s defense was big time stout in the second half. Four turnovers, one blocked kick and a missed field goal were the highlights of the Hawkeyes’ defense in the final 30 minutes.
Now, about that offense. Iowa ran for 163 yards against a very, very good PSU defense. The Hawkeyes’ two-headed monster at running back – Adam Robinson and Brendan Wegher – gained 88 and 73 yards, respectively.
“Impressive, very, very impressive,” ABC-TV’s Kirk Herbstreit said of Iowa’s red-shirt and true freshman.
“That’s confidence. The Hawkeyes need ball control and Ferentz is handing the ball off to a pair of freshmen,” he said later.
Robinson and Wegher benefitted from an offensive line that, like its brethen on defense, got better as the game rolled on. And, when it matter most — Iowa leading by just one but with the ball on Penn State’s 24 thanks to a pick and 38-yard run by linebacker Pat Angerer – Robinson rode his line on carries of nine and two before a brilliant 13-yard gallop to the end zone.
“We played hard all game. We started playing well a couple weeks ago, particularly the defensive line,” Ferentz said.
“Just a great, great effort. That’s what I’ll take away from this win. A great team effort in a simply oustanding game-day environment.”
Iowa returns to action next Saturday with an 11 a.m. Iowa time date with Arkansas State inside historic Kinnick Stadium.