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 to Michigan and Illinois, respectively.
Penn State had also not beaten the Hawkeyes in the past five tries, including an ugly 6-4 home loss in the previous meeting between the two teams in 2004.
Rodney Kinlaw, a fifth-year senior on that 07 team, said the Nittany Lions’ mindset heading into their matchup with the Hawkeyes was to “take care of the little things.”
“It’s all about executing,” Kinlaw said. “Play to the best of your ability and give it all on the field. Don’t stop playing until the clock reads double zeros at the end of the fourth quarter.”
As far why it seemed Iowa had Penn State’s number in recent meetings, Kinlaw said the common denominator was always the Hawkeyes’ toughness along the defensive and offensive lines.
“They’re always good in the trenches,” Kinlaw said. “That’s where the game is pretty much going to be won. If the line can’t block, you’re running back and quarterback aren’t going to be productive. Iowa always seemed to have big, tough guys up front.”
Penn State controlled the line of scrimmage, took care of the little things and snapped their duo of losing streaks, dominating Iowa 27-7.
“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,” editor John Black noted in The Football Letter.
For Kinlaw, his performance against the Hawkeyes was reminiscent of his college career as a whole.
He missed his freshman season in 2004 with a knee injury and was forced to redshirt. He battled his way back, but sat behind Tony Hunt on the depth chart.
By the time his senior season arrived, he was splitting carries with the likes of Evan Royster, Austin Scott and Stefon Green.
His confidence never wavered, though.
“It took a while, but I always knew I was going to get back on the field,” Kinlaw said.
Kinlaw overcame a fumble early in the game, which drew the ire of Paterno, to finish with a career-high 168 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a great feeling to have that kind of day at home in an important game for us, especially after tearing my ACL and working so hard to get back into the lineup,” Kinlaw said. “It was a blessing to get that chance to show what I could do.”
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 early-season struggles Kinlaw and his teammates faced during that 2007 season sort of mirror the kind of struggles the current Nittany Lions squad face today, sitting at 0-4 in the Big Ten.
Kinlaw said the best advice he can give to the 2020 team is to stick together and lean on one another as teammates.
“If you see your teammate giving 100 percent, it’s probably going to push you to give 100 percent. So, you want to be the guy who sets that example. Lean on that fight together. Be that person where your teammates know that they can count on.”