Penn State Preview: Iowa

Each week throughout the 2019 season, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays. 

Game details: No. 10/9 Penn State @ No 17/18 Iowa, 7:30 p.m., broadcast on ABC

Venue: Kinnick Stadium 

Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): Kick-off temperature of 49 degrees, mostly clear skies. 

The line: Penn State – 3.5 

Last week: Penn State won its Homecoming matchup against Purdue, 35-7. Iowa lost a defensive struggle at Michigan, 10-3. 

All-time series: Penn State leads 16-12. Penn State has won five consecutive meetings. 

Last meeting (2018): Penn State held off Iowa in a cold, sloppy afternoon game in which Trace McSorley gutted out an injury he suffered in the second quarter. A timely interception at the goal line by Nick Scott, and a late fourth-quarter stand helped the Nittany Lions hold of the Hawkeyes, 30-24.

Throwback classic (2007): Having suffered five-straight losses in the series, Penn State won comfortably 27-7 on Oct. 6, 2007. The win marked just the second time in seven meetings that Joe Paterno had gotten the better of Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes went on to win the next three meetings. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Overview: Two of the best defenses in the Big Ten will go head to head at Kinnick. Penn State is the fourth-ranked total defense in the country, while Iowa is fifth-best. This game will probably come down to which offense can make the most big plays. The Hawkeyes were dreadful against Michigan, while Penn State has scored 94 points combined in its first two Big Ten games. That being said, Iowa’s defense will be a much more difficult test for Sean Clifford and the Nittany Lions’ offense than the Maryland and Purdue defenses were. 

Penn State wins if: The Nittany Lions defense can bottle up the Hawkeyes run game. Penn State’s front seven has feasted through five games, leading the nation in sacks and tackles-for-loss, albeit all against unranked teams. Iowa is going to want to win this game by running the football and controlling the clock. If the Nittany Lions bottle up the Hawkeyes rushing attack and get after Nate Stanley, who was flustered by a blitz-heavy scheme from the Wolverines a week ago, they can walk out of Kinnick victorious. 

Iowa wins if: It can limit Penn State’s big-play ability. The Nittany Lions offense thrives on chunk plays. Getting the ball down field and in space to the likes of KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, and others is what makes this offense tick. As good as the Hawkeyes defense has been, they’ve only registered seven team sacks this season. Led by defensive end AJ Epensa, Iowa is going to have to get after Clifford and limit the time he has to find his big weapons. 

Count On: A close game. The history of this matchup will tell you, these two teams usually play a close game, especially when they play at Kinnick Stadium. Penn State isn’t going to blowout Iowa the way it did Maryland and Purdue. It’s going to be another tight contest with a handful of key plays deciding the outcome of the game. 

Keep an eye on: Noah Cain. The freshman had a breakout performance against Purdue a week ago with 105 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Penn State is going to continue its running back committee approach, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they lean on the physical running style of Cain a little bit more this week. 

Trivia tidbit: As consistent of winners as Penn State and Iowa have been over the years, both programs only have one Heisman trophy winners to their names. John Cappelletti is Penn State’s lone winner, securing the award in 1973. Nile Kinnick, the namesake of Iowa’s stadium, won the Heisman in 1939. 

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 31,  Iowa 21

Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 27, Iowa 17

From The Archives: Penn State V. Iowa (2007)

When Penn State hosted Iowa in Week 6 of the 2007 season, it was looking to stop two separate losing streaks.

The Nittany Lions were coming off of two-straight losses to open up their Big Ten campaign. Penn State had also not beaten the Hawkeyes in its last five tries, including an ugly 6-4 home loss in the previous meeting between the two teams in 2004. 

The 2007 matchup proved to be a near-perfect streak-stopper for coach Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions. 

“With the vociferous support of 108,951 fans — the largest crowd to watch a football game that Saturday — the struggling Lions were resuscitated with a 27-7 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten opener in Happy Valley,” John Black noted in The Football Letter

Paterno noted that his quarterback Anthony Morelli, still under heavy outside criticism for his turnover-plagued performance against Michigan two weeks prior, threw the ball with more confidence against the Hawkeyes. 

Morelli connected with Derrick Williams on a 24-yard touchdown to put Penn State up 10-0 at the 1:08 mark of the second quarter. 

After a three-and-out by Iowa, Morelli led the Lions down the field in quick fashion and set up a 53-yard field goal from Kevin Kelly as time expired in the first half. 

An 81-yard touchdown drive that ended with a Rodney Kinlaw score in the third quarter chewed up over five minutes on the game clock and extended the Nittany Lion lead to 20-0. 

The two teams traded fourth-quarter touchdowns and Penn State sealed a comfortable 27-7 win that seemed to rejuvenate the team a bit.

The Nittany Lions went on two win their next two contests and five of their final seven overall, including the 24-17 success over Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl. 

The win over the Hawkeyes also marked just the second time that Paterno had defeated Kirk Ferentz in a head-to-head meeting at the time. 

It also proved to be Penn State’s last win in the series until 2011, when a run of three-successive Hawkeye wins was halted by a 13-3 victory by the Nittany Lions.

Central Iowa Chapter Eager to Welcome Penn Staters To Its Neck Of The Woods

What the Central Iowa Chapter of the Alumni Association might lack in numbers, it makes up for in Penn State pride. 

Herb Meier a 1973 Penn State graduate, has been with the chapter since its beginning.  

Meier came out to Iowa for work, having taken a job with the IRS. He held the role as the chapter’s treasurer for a number of years before finally taking over the presidency. 

Based in Des Moines, the chapter covers all of Central Iowa, making it a bit difficult to get all Penn Staters living in that area together often for events. 

That hasn’t stopped the chapter’s activity levels, though. Meier said the chapter has about 25 paid members, all of whom are extremely dedicated. 

The group hosts Penn State football watch parties, and also looks to attend sporting events when other Penn State teams are in the area.

Back in August, members of the group made the trip to Ames, Iowa, to watch the women’s volleyball team take on the Iowa State Cyclones for the Cyclone Invitational —  a 3-0 win for the Nittany Lions.

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

“It was a real treat for us, because we don’t get to see them too often,” Meier said laughing.

Other events include an annual ice cream social, a summer picnic, and a winter party that’s held at the local botanical center.  

Meier and other chapter members also participate in volunteer activities a few times each year. 

“We’ve gone to a local wildlife sanctuary, it’s called the Neal Smith Wildlife Reserve,” Meier said. “We’ve gone down there and done some work packaging meals and they send them all across the country and all across the world to help feed people.” 

This weekend, Meier and the rest of the Central Iowa Chapter will host the Friday Night Mixer at the Backpocket Brewery and Tap Room ahead of the Penn State football game at Iowa 

Meier is excited for the chapter to connect with Penn Staters traveling into the state for the game. 

“It’s pretty special. We get to make a lot of connections and meet some other people from different chapters,” Meier said. “It’s good to connect with the Alumni Association and the representatives there. We email back and forth with them, but it’s always nice to see and talk with them face to face. We get to see the Blue Band, the Nittany Lion and the cheerleaders. It’s great. It’s special for us.”

It’s also a good opportunity to raise some funds to keep the chapter running and to support the chapter’s scholarship fund. 

“We’ve been really trying to grow (our scholarship fund),” Meier said. “It’s difficult because we don’t have a large base, but this will really help with that.” 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Most Penn State fans probably don’t see Penn State vs. Iowa as too big of a rivalry, but because they live in “enemy territory,” members of the Central Iowa Chapter do see matchups between the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes as a bit of a rivalry. 

“The 2017 game, you talk about a wild game (Penn State won on a last-second touchdown),” Meier said. 

“They’ve had some pretty good games over the years. I know people back east don’t consider it a rivalry, but us out here, we kind of see it somewhat as a rivalry. We’ve had some really good games and they’ve beat us in an upset a couple of times. To us, it’s a special game.”

To learn more about the Central Iowa Chapter, visit their website, email them psuiowa@gmail.com, or follow them on Facebook

The Central Iowa Chapter is one of nearly 300 Penn State Alumni Association affiliate groups worldwide. Visit alumni.psu.edu/groups to connect with Penn Staters in your area.

Nittany Lion Look Back (And Ahead)

Purdue/Iowa

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

I expected Penn State’s defense to be good this season, I’m not sure I expected them to be THIS good. 

Purdue — albeit without its best player in Rondale Moore and senior quarterback Elijah Sindelar — couldn’t get anything going in Saturday’s 35-7 win for Penn State. Backup quarterback Jack Plummer was under duress all day long, with the Nittany Lions collecting 10 sacks. The Boilermakers mustered a measly 104 yards of total offense. 

In Penn State’s first two conference games, the defense has given up just seven points. The highest total it’s surrendered this season was in the Week 2 win over Buffalo (13 points). 

With the meat of the Big Ten schedule ahead of it, Penn State knows it has one of the elite defenses in the conference to count on.

Looking Back

Star of The Game: DE Shaka Toney

I was going to start off this section by saying Shaka Toney was basically unblockable against the Boilermakers. But there’s no “basically” about it. He was unblockable. Toney was in the backfield repeatedly, using speed and quickness to burn Purdue’s offensive line. He tallied three sacks and helped the Nittany Lions record their most sacks in a conference game since 2007. He and Yetur Gross-Matos give Penn State a terrific tandem of starting pass rushers. 

Moment of Magic: Dotson sprints 72 yards to the end zone

With the Nittany Lions on top 14-0, wideout Jahan Dotson blew the game wide open on Penn State’s third possession of the game. He corralled a pass from over the middle, juked one Purdue defender before speeding ahead down the left hand side of the field. A key block by KJ Hamler at the 10-yard-line cleared the path to the end zone and Dotson scored his third touchdown of the season to put the home side up three scores. 

Looking Ahead

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Hawkeyes offensive falters

Facing a Michigan team that got gashed on the ground just a few weeks ago by Wisconsin, Iowa’s offense produced just one rushing yard on 30 carries in Saturday’s 10-3 loss in Ann Arbor. That’s the fewest yards the Hawkeyes have managed on the ground since 2011. Up next? A date with Penn State’s dominant front seven. 

Stanley’s turnovers

Quarterback Nate Stanley returned for his senior season in Iowa City with a lot of expectations, with some even regarding him as an NFL prospect. Stanley was efficient, if unspectacular through Iowa’s first four games, but fell flat against the Wolverines. He threw for 260 yards, but was also picked off three times and sacked eight times. He has to be better against Penn State for Iowa to have a chance at the upset.

Primetime at Kinnick

Penn State doesn’t have the best track record in primetime games at Kinnick Stadium, but then again neither do a lot of top-ranked teams. I’m not even going to get into the 2008 heartbreaking loss for a then-undefeated Penn State squad. It’s still too soon. 

In recent years, the Hawkeyes have managed to pull off some incredible upsets at home, including wins over Ohio State in 2017 and Michigan in 2016. The Nittany Lions, thanks to a gutsy last-second connection from Trace McSorley to Juwan Johnson, won at the death under the lights of Kinnick in 2017.

Penn State Preview: Purdue

Penn State v.Pitt (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.

 

Game details: No. 12/11 Penn State vs. Purdue, noon kickoff, broadcast on ESPN.

 

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State boasts an all-time record of 293-74.

 

Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 60 degrees with plenty of sunshine.

 

The line: Penn State – 28.5

 

Last week: Penn State dominated Maryland 59-0, while Purdue dropped a home contest to Minnesota 38-31.

 

All-time series: Penn State leads 14-3-1.

 

Last meeting (2016): Penn State blasted Purdue 62-24 in West Lafayette, overcoming a sluggish first half to earn the convincing win. This game is also noteworthy since it came right after the Nittany Lions’ upset of No. 2 Ohio State, setting up Penn State’s run to a Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl.

 

Throwback classic (2004): The White Out is now widely regarded as one of the best environments in college football, and perhaps all of sports. But back in 2004, it was a novelty, with the student section wearing all white for the first time during a 20-13 loss to undefeated ninth-ranked Purdue (the first stadium-wide White Out came years later).

 

Overview: Win Saturday, and Penn State sets itself up for a highly compelling four-game stretch against Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota — the Golden Gophers have started the season 4-0. More immediate, the Boilermakers enter this weekend with a disappointing 1-3 mark, and head coach Jeff Brohm announced earlier in the week that star wide receiver Rondale Moore will be out after suffering an injury last weekend. Without him, it’s difficult to see Purdue scoring 30-plus points, a mark that Penn State should surpass; the Nittany Lions are averaging 50 per game so far this year. Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar will also sit out after being injured on the same play as Moore, so the Boilermakers need a whole lot to go right for them to pull off an upset on Homecoming weekend in Happy Valley.

 

Penn State wins if: the defense continues to create mayhem. Penn State’s given up only 30 points through four games, and with the offense having the potential to 40-plus seemingly every week, even a workmanlike performance Saturday should be enough to keep Penn State unbeaten.

 

Purdue wins if: the Boilermakers can make Sean Clifford uncomfortable. For as much as success as Clifford (and the offense) has had this year, he did look rattled, at times, when Pitt pressured him last month. Purdue clearly can’t win a shootout, so the Boilers’ best chance is to grind out the clock and limit Clifford’s opportunities when the Nittany Lions have the ball.

 

Keep an eye on: Penn State’s third down success. Last week, the Nittany Lions converted its first seven third down opportunities and finished 9-of-13.

 

Trivia tidbit: Thirteen Nittany Lions caught at least one reception last week against Maryland, the second time Penn State receivers have hit that mark (Idaho).

 

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 45, Purdue 14 

 

Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 41, Purdue 10 

From the Archives: Penn State V. Purdue (2000)

From the Archives—Purdue (1)

Tragedy has a way of galvanizing families and communities.

This is the way John Black eloquently started the Oct. 2, 2000 edition of The Football Letter.

Penn State upended a Drew Brees-led Purdue squad 22-20 a few days earlier at Beaver Stadium, one of five victories the team earned during one of the rare losing campaigns in Joe Paterno’s tenure as Nittany Lion head coach.

The score, though, really wasn’t the point. That’s why it wasn’t until the eighth paragraph that Black mentioned anything that happened in the game.

The week leading up to the contest? That’s what set this game apart from your typical fall Saturday in Happy Valley. The events that transpired on campus and at the Ohio State University Hospital are what alumni and fans wanted to hear, read, and learn more about.

Many Penn Staters are familiar with what happened the previous week, when defensive back Adam Taliaferro suffered a catastrophic injury against the Buckeyes. Tragic, and possibly life-altering, Penn State football had never seen one of its players suffer such an injury before, Black summarized.

And while Taliaferro’s inspiring story has been on display for many years — he fully recovered physically and is now successful in several career fields — back in 2000, his future was very much in doubt.

Coaches, teammates, and fans knew this, which made the following week unavoidably surreal.

Justin Kurpeikis, a senior defensive end on the 2000 squad who also played in the NFL, said the days leading up to the Purdue game were different from anything he had ever experienced in the sport.

“From the moment he got injured, I think there was this feel of how serious it was,” Kurpeikis said. “The news we got the following week — just a lot of raw emotion.”

Taliaferro spent four days in the hospital, undergoing cervical spinal decompression surgery, and Paterno and Athletic Director Tim Curley flew back to Columbus to visit Taliaferro and his family in the hospital. Paterno even cancelled practice on Monday, something that seems unheard of today, and probably back then, too.

All of which underscored the seriousness that overshadowed the team leading up to the showdown against the Boilermakers, a formidable opponent that season. Purdue finished the regular season 8-3 and tied for the Big Ten championship with Michigan and Northwestern with a 6-2 conference mark.

“Emotion wears off, preparation and focus don’t,” said Kurpeikis, who grew up near Pittsburgh and played at Central Catholic High School.

“I think what we saw different that week was it provided a way for that team — and we weren’t particularly good that year, we ended up 5-7 — but because of him and what he meant to guys and how jarring the experience was, it forced guys all week long …  If you say you’re going to play for someone, then that focus has to be there, and that’s what I think it was.”

After both teams tallied a pair of field goals in the first half, Purdue took a temporary lead (13-6) after Brees caught a touchdown pass. The Heisman Trophy hopeful had broken the Big Ten record by completing 33-of-49 passes for 409 yards against Minnesota the previous week.

Fullback Paul Jefferson and quarterback Rashard Casey each recorded a rushing score to help push Penn State to the victory over 22nd-ranked Purdue, with Black saying that “Beaver Stadium rocked Saturday like it hasn’t for several years.”

Paterno stated it was the most difficult week of his career as a coach, and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley called Taliaferro before the game to let him know the team was thinking of him. There was a group prayer on the Old Main steps that featured Paterno as a speaker, with funds collected for Taliaferro’s long-term care. At the on-campus rally, fans also signed cards for Taliaferro, in a sign of unity.

Nearly two decades later, Kurpeikis still strongly relates to that sense of belonging, mainly because Penn State has always felt like home for him.

His first memory is watching a game at Beaver Stadium, from the vantage point of his dad’s shoulders. From that moment, Penn State’s the only place where he’s wanted to be. After starring for the Nittany Lions, he played a half-dozen seasons in the NFL before returning to State College in 2007. He’s lived full time in the area since and has founded two companies.

One of his ventures is Atlas Therapy, which specializes in physical therapy clinics in State College and Altoona. He studied a pre-med curriculum at Penn State, and even had aspirations to become a doctor after his playing days. He looked at ways to stay healthy as a player, and he always liked medicine and anatomy, so the transition from NFL player to business owner became something of a natural path.

His time at Penn State served him well, and still does in many ways. While playing for Paterno, Kurpeikis learned about formulating a team, and the importance of a mission, and culture, and accomplishing something special.

All of those ideals, he said, are what drive him today to grow his companies and do things the right way.

Penn State’s still a part of that, and from the way he speaks fondly of his days as a Nittany Lion, always will be.

“There’s not a day that’s gone by since I came to school here — including every day since — that I haven’t thought on a lesson or a quote that either Coach Paterno or my other coaches have said, and that’s a very important time in a young man’s life, 18-22 years old,” Kurpeikis said.

“Every day, whether it’s my family or my business, there’s a situation where I can recall on something that either Joe or one of the other coaches said, or something that went on with my experience that relates. That’s pretty powerful to say that.”

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Nittany Lion Look Back (And Ahead)

Maryland/Purdue

No. 12 Penn State’s 59-0 demolition of Maryland on Friday night was one of the more complete games the Nittany Lions have put together in the James Franklin era. After the poor first half against Buffalo and the narrow victory over Pitt in Week 3, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous heading into this one. 

Almost immediately, sitting in the sea of white shirts on one half of Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, my worries disappeared. Right from the opening possession, it was clear the Nittany Lions were locked in for this one as Jan Johnson intercepted Terps quarterback Josh Jackson to set up a Penn State scoring drive. 

It only got worse from there for the home faithful, with a large chunk of them heading for the exits halfway through the second quarter. A boisterous student section that taunted Penn State players and fans early on in the game all but disappeared before halftime, heading back out to the College Park night. 

In the last three meetings between the two programs Penn State has outscored Maryland 163-6. Yikes!  

Looking Back

Star of The Game: QB Sean Clifford

After struggling against Pitt, Clifford rebounded for his best performance of the season on Friday, going 26-of-31 with 398 yards and three touchdowns. He added another 54 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Clifford completed his first nine passes of the game, setting up the offense for a needed fast start to quiet the Maryland crowd. He looked in control and comfortable in the pocket all night, so credit to Penn State’s offensive line as well. If Clifford performs at that level consistently for the rest of the season, Penn State can beat every team left on its schedule. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Moment of Magic: WR KJ Hamler’s House Call 

With Penn State up 7-0 and facing a third-and-nine near midfield, the Terrapins were close to swinging a bit of momentum back in their favor at the 9:48 mark of the first quarter. Then KJ Hamler happened. The premier playmaker on the Nittany Lions’ offense snagged Clifford’s pass over the middle and evaded two tacklers to gain the first down. He wasn’t done, though, keeping his balance before sprinting to the right side of the field. A hapless Maryland defensive back tried to cut off Hamler’s angle to the end zone but instead was juked two or three times by Hamler before falling to the turf. KJ eased into the end zone from there and Penn State was rolling up 14-0. There aren’t many players more electric with the ball in their hands in college football than KJ Hamler.

Looking Ahead

Boiler Down

It’s safe to say things haven’t gone according to plan for Jeff Brohm and Purdue this season. After reaching bowl games in each of the past two seasons, many expected the Boilermakers to be in the hunt for a potential Big Ten West division title in 2019. Instead, they’re off to a 1-3 start, with losses to Nevada (who just lost by 51 to Hawaii), TCU and Minnesota.   

Two Key Injuries  

Purdue lost star wideout Rondale Moore and quarterback Elijah Sindelar on the same play in Saturday’s loss to the Golden Gophers. Neither will play in this week’s matchup with Penn State. That’s bad news for Purdue with the Nittany Lions defense playing well right now.  

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Up Steps Plummer

Sindelar’s injury means redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Plummer is likely to get the start at Beaver Stadium for Purdue. Playing in relief of a concussed Sindelar, Plummer had an up and down showing in the Week 3 loss to TCU, going 13-of-29 for 181 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. It was more of the same against Minnesota once Sindelar went down with a broken clavicle. Plummer tossed for 245 yards and two touchdowns on 41 attempts, but threw two more interceptions.