By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — If you like college football and competition, you should love Saturday’s Big Ten Conference matchup between No. 16 Penn State (5-2 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) and No. 18 Iowa (6-1, 3-1).
The teams meet in Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania, with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m. (CT).
“It will be a great challenge for our football team, but we’re looking forward to it,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said in his Sunday conversation with hawkeyesports.com. “It is a great football environment; our challenge is to do our best this week to make sure we’re ready to go and play a great game and not leave any plays out there.”
The last time the Hawkeyes played at Penn State, they came away with a 41-14 loss. In the 2017 game inside Kinnick Stadium, the Nittany Lions scored on a 7-yard pass as time expired to win, 21-19.
“The story of the game two years ago is we didn’t show up,” Ferentz said. “That was a tough night for us, we didn’t do anything well and we weren’t ready to go. Last year was a much different story; it came down to the last play of the game and they executed and we weren’t quite there. It was a great football game and the one common denominator, they still have that quarterback, he makes them go.”
Penn State’s Trace McSorley threw for 284 yards and rushed for 61 last season against Iowa. In 2016, he threw for 240 yards and ran for 40.
Iowa enters the game riding a three-game winning streak, including a 23-0 shutout of Maryland on Oct. 20. The Hawkeyes won the yardage battle against the Terrapins in windy conditions, 310-115, and held Maryland’s strong ground game to 68 yards on 23 attempts.
“We knew we would have to play disciplined football. Our defensive guys had a great plan and stuck to the plan,” Ferentz said. “The weather was a challenge with the high winds. We were hoping to possess the ball and then with the high winds, made it tough to throw, especially deep. The running game became instrumental. I can’t say enough about the job all the guys blocking did, but the runners especially did a great job running the ball and finishing runs.”
Iowa ran for 224 yards on 54 carries. Ivory Kelly-Martin gained 98 yards on 24 carries and Mekhi Sargent picked up 54 yards on 10 attempts to lead the way.
“You have to give (quarterback) Nate Stanley credit for getting out of bad plays and getting us into good ones because Maryland is a high-percentage blitz outfit,” Ferentz said. “Yesterday they were really high and it was driven by the weather.”
Maryland entered Iowa’s Homecoming game on top of the Big Ten with a plus-9 in turnover margin. The Terrapins stopped the Hawkeyes’ first drive via interception, but Iowa finished the game with an interception and fumble recovery to move to plus-3 on the season.
“That was a big focal point for us going into the game,” Ferentz said. “We rebounded for that and came out on top in the game, so we’re happy.”
The win over Maryland provided another opportunity for the Hawkeyes to develop depth.
“Kristian Welch stepped in and has done a great job in Jack (Hockaday’s) absence (at middle linebacker),” Ferentz said. “We have a lot of that going on across our whole board team-wise: corner positon, Austin Kelly jumping in for Brady (Ross) yesterday (at fullback). All those things will make us a stronger team in November if we can continue to sustain those adjustments and still play well.”