The Roaring 20: Penn State-Iowa

Kinnick Stadium, hours before the venue’s biggest game since 1985, when No. 1 Iowa hosted No. 2 Michigan. The Hawkeyes escaped Saturday with a 23-20 win that was marred by fans booing Penn State injuries. You can see plenty of videos and photos from the weekend below. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Here are 20 insights from our weekend trip to see Penn State battle Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes erased a 17-3 deficit to win 23-20, as numerous Nittany Lions — including three team captains in Sean Clifford, PJ Mustipher, and Jonathan Sutherland — left the game because of injuries.

1. Friday was an adventure for the Alumni Association staff. Some colleagues flew to Chicago and drove to Cedar Rapids (about a 3.5 hour-drive). We were all booked for an early flight, which got delayed, and then canceled, and some of us got rebooked on the 6 p.m. direct flight. Then, that flight got delayed and canceled. I figured that was it — we weren’t all making the trip to Iowa, myself included. Miss out on a Top-5 matchup? It hurt. I was on hold with the travel agency and couldn’t get through. Nobody could find a reasonable flight that’d get us into Iowa on time. We were looking at other airports. It seemed lost. Colleagues had even left to go home. I was right behind them, when I decided to stop at the airline counter for a last-ditch effort to see what was possible.

Then, something happened like out of a movie. People hung around, stayed by the counter. Eventually, a call was made. A head count followed. I called colleagues who turned around on the road and returned to the airport, with still no guarantee. But it was possible we’d get a new plane into State College specifically for our flight. And it happened. We had to wait, and we didn’t get into Iowa until midnight local time, but it was so worth it to be there to gather with Penn Staters at our events and see the Nittany Lions give one hell of a battle. Here’s a photo I took as I got on the plane out of State College on Friday night. P.S., it was probably closer to six hours at the airport, but I was out of it. Thanks to everyone at United who helped get us to the game.

2. I was disappointed to miss Friday night’s mixer and not see alumni and friends, including Central Iowa Chapter President Herb Meier ’73. Meier was a guest on last week’s episode of Football Letter Live, and you can see our conversation with him starting around the 13:30 mark.

3. For the third time in six years, we traveled to Iowa and held our pep rally at Duane Banks Field, home to Iowa’s baseball team. Here was the scene as we set up and prepared for the crowd.

4. We had some internet connection issues during our live stream of Saturday’s pep rally. Specifically, it dropped a few times, though only for a moment or two. Thanks to everyone who stayed with us, and you can watch the pep rally (broken into sections) on our Facebook video page.

5. The Pep Band closed out the pep rally with the alma mater, and you can see (and hear) the student, cheer team, Nittany Lion, and Penn Staters enjoying the moment.

6. There’s still time to join us at one of our three remaining pep rallies this regular season. View more information and sign up for the pep rallies at Ohio State (Oct. 30), Maryland (Nov. 6), and Michigan State (Nov. 27). We hope to see you on the road at some point this season.

7. After setting up, we walked around the tailgating lots a bit. Lots filled up quickly Saturday, and here’s one view with Kinnick Stadium in the background.

8. Iowa’s press box is absolutely gorgeous. We snapped this photo a few hours before kickoff.

9. Penn State legend LaVar Arrington was in the house for the game, after he appeared on FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff show to preview the game. You can see LaVar on set in this video from FOX’s College Football Twitter account, and we also snapped a quick photo of LaVar on the Penn State sideline shortly before kickoff. As you can imagine, he was popular among the Penn Staters who traveled, taking time for a photo with a young fan, moments before James Franklin led the Nittany Lions onto the field.

10. Say what you want about the fans — and we will in the next couple of notes — however, the wave to the children’s hospital at the end of the first quarter is a wonderful tradition that brings a lot of joy to the children facing much bigger battles off the field. You can see the moment on our Facebook page.

11. A lot’s been written and said about Iowa’s fans booing Penn State’s injured players. Obviously, the fans thought the players were faking to slow down Iowa’s offense, which in a word, is “absurd.” The Hawkeyes don’t run an upbeat, fast-paced offense. They huddle. They take time off the clock. Good for James Franklin directly addressing this after the game. Lions247’s Tyler Donohue shared Franklin’s response.

12. Following up on the last point: Outside of Nebraska, I’ve been to every away venue in the Big Ten, and Saturday was the third time I’ve seen Penn State play Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. While every fan base (even ours) has fans who act inappropriately and crudely, Iowa has more fans than most who fit into this category. Will that change in the future? Unfortunately, I doubt it, since Hawkeye coaches joined in the mocking. Here’s just one video making the rounds on social media.

13. After the game ended, you could see some Penn State fans applauding the team as players and coaches walked off the field. In addition to fans, family members also traveled, including Tariq Castro-Fields’ parents. Earlier this season, I finally introduced myself to a gentleman who I see at nearly every game, home and away. He usually has an appearance in our highlight videos, and I just wanted to thank him for always being so energetic. Turned out he’s Castro-Fields’ father, and he and his family attended the game at Kinnick Stadium. We shared a fist-bump when I saw him, and seeing him and his family and saying “hello” and “good to see you” has quickly become a nice tradition for me.

14. Just about every player available to the media afterward was asked about the fans booing their injured teammates. The Nittany Lions displayed an incredible level of maturity in their responses, showing much more class than the crowd. We shared Ellis Brooks’ insight, as he said Iowa “has loving (our emphasis) fans,” while adding that it’s a “weird” thing to have happen. You can view Brooks’ entire response on our Twitter page.

15. “Resilient” was one of the first words I thought of after Jordan Stout shared the message he had for teammates after the game, regarding the team still being in position to achieve all of is goals: “Don’t forget the goals, don’t forget what we’re pushing for. We’re going for a national championship, Big Ten championship. This doesn’t matter. We’re coming back stronger.” You can see Stout’s full response on our Twitter page.

16. Senior defensive end Arnold Ebiketie described Saturday’s setback as “just a bump on the road.” That response is a good indicator of the maturity level of Ebiketie, who is viewed as a leader even though this is his first year with the program after transferring from Temple.

17. We also spoke with standout linebacker Jesse Luketa. He discussed the team’s defensive performance, participating in the traditional wave, and much more. Visit our YouTube channel to see the whole discussion. You can also visit our Twitter channel for a shortened version, where he talks about the wave and why he’s confident the defense will bounce back.

18. Friday night, Lion Ambassadors hosted Haunted Valley, one of the many popular events they hold to celebrate and uphold Penn State spirit and tradition. You can see some photos from the event on the group’s Facebook page.

19. Even with the bye, we’ll still have a new episode of Football Letter Live this week. Sign up and hear from letterman Garry Gilliam ’13 and Paralympian and volunteer leader Jake Schrom ’11.

20. Rest up this week, Penn Staters. There’s still a lot of football to be played in the nation’s toughest conference and division.

For more on The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

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Penn State Preview: Iowa

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 this football season. Let’s dive into this week’s preview for another huge matchup between Penn State and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Game details: No. 4/4 Penn State (5-0, 1-0) at No. 3/3 Iowa (5-0, 1-0). 4 p.m. ET kick-off, broadcast on FOX.

Venue: Kinnick Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Very warm with clouds and sunshine; breezy in the afternoon; an unseasonably warm afternoon for football. High of 82.

The Line: Iowa -1.5 (SI Sportsbook) 

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 17-13

Last Meeting: Iowa won last year’s meeting quite comfortably, 41-21.

Last Week: Penn State blanked Indiana 24-0. Iowa trounced Maryland 51-14.

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– Maryland at No. 7/7 Ohio State (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)
– No. 11/11 Michigan State at Rutgers (Saturday, Noon ET, Big Ten Network)
– Wisconsin at Illinois (Saturday, 3:30. p.m. ET, Big Ten. Network)
– No. 9/8 Michigan at Nebraska (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Penn State @ Iowa 2017 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Throwback Classic: 2017. Saquon Barkley dazzled under the Kinnick lights and Juwan Johnson caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to silence the Iowa crowd and notch a win for the No. 4-ranked Nittany Lions. Barkley had 28 carries for a career-high 211 yards and a touchdown. He also had a team-high 12 catches for 94 yards. Check out Saquon’s highlight real performance and the clutch final drive that propelled Penn State to a win below.

The Lead: Boy, it seems like there have been a lot of big games between these two programs over the years. They might not be “rivals” in any official capacity, but when the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes clash there’s usually a lot at stake for one or both of these teams. This year, there are legitimate playoff aspirations for Penn State and Iowa. Don’t expect a plethora of points in a shootout. These two teams field some elite defenses.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions don’t turn the ball over. Iowa thrives off of its defense forcing turnovers and setting up its offense with advantageous field position. The Hawkeyes aren’t an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination. They are opportunistic and efficient when they need to be. Penn State cannot cough up the ball and expect to walk out of Kinnick with the win. Sean Clifford has been much better at making smarter decisions with the ball this year and he’ll need to be at his best in that department on Saturday. Penn State’s defense is playing at an elite level right now and if the Nittany Lions’ offense avoids turnovers, the blue and white have a great chance to go 1-0 this weekend.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Iowa Wins If: Penn State turns the ball over. Seems kind of redundant doesn’t it? But that’s for good reason. As I said above, Iowa’s season has been defined by forcing opponent’s into turnovers. Iowa is ranked No. 2 in FBS in scoring defense (Penn State is No. 3), No. 1 in interceptions forced, No. 1 in turnover margin and No. 7 in total defense.

Keep An Eye On: The Iowa Wave. One of the most inspiring traditions in college football, the Iowa Wave was started in 2017 and occurs at the end of the first quarter of each Iowa football home game. Iowa fans and players turn to face away from the field, and begin waving in the direction of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

Trivia Tidbit: This is Penn State’s first Top 5 matchup since 1999 when the Nittany Lions hosted Arizona for the Pigskin Classic. Take a closer look back at this game in this From The Archives story from 2019.

Number To Know: Seven. The Iowa defense forced Maryland into seven turnovers last Friday night, including six interceptions.

Membership Note: The online Alumni Library is one of the most valuable benefits of membership in the Penn State Alumni Association, and a new how-to video on our Alumni Library benefits page shows you how to get started accessing this treasure trove of knowledge. Check it out here.

Score Predictions: 
John Patishnock: Penn State 20, Iowa 13
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 23, Iowa 14

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week Four

Coming off of a knee injury he suffered last season, Saquon Barkley looked back to his old self in Week Four.

Saquon accumulated 126 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, including this stellar six-yard score that delivered the first win of the season for the Giants.

No. 26 also burnt the Saints secondary on a wheel route (feel like we’ve seen that before from Saquon) for his first touchdown of the day.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Micah Parsons has been one of the standout rookies of this young NFL season.

He added another sack and four tackles to his name this past Sunday in the Cowboys’ 36-28 win over the Panthers.

Micah is one of the key reasons why the Dallas defense has been greatly improved from the all-time terrible unit that it was last year.

Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins continue to struggle in the absence of injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, but Mike Gesicki had his best performance of the 2021 season to date in Miami’s loss to the Colts.

Gesicki had five receptions for 57 yards and this touchdown.

Odafe Oweh, Edge Rusher, Baltimore Ravens

If Micah Parsons is the top rookie performer through four weeks, fellow former Lion Odafe Oweh can’t be far behind.

Oweh recorded another sack on Sunday as the Ravens smothered the Broncos offense all afternoon.

Amani Oruwariye, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

Another week, another INT for for Amani Oruwariye.

Social Media Milestone

Penn Staters packed Old Main Lawn when ESPN’s College Game Day visited in September for the White Out against Auburn. Having the wildly popular show broadcast from University Park provided multiple opportunities to capture and share enduring moments on The Football Letter’s platforms. Photo credit: John Patishnock

Something cool happened the other day.

I was looking at the analytics for our Football Letter Twitter account, and I saw that for September, we surpassed a million impressions in the month.

“We” is the appropriate word here, as I’m fortunate to work with an inspiring and impressive group of colleagues. Between a team of writers, graphic designers, and website gurus — that’s not an official title, though I’ve learned it’s an apt description, as it seems like whenever an obstacle arises, a solution follows soon after — there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. 

And of course, John Black and Steve Manuel continue to provide coverage as only they can. 

What’s posted to our Twitter account is the final step of a lot of planning, working, editing, and sometimes traveling. Whenever we arrive at a hotel, my first two questions are always, “What’s the WiFi password?” and “How strong is the connection?”

As alumni know, we’ve expanded The Football Letter in the last year, airing a live, weekly online show — Football Letter Live — and sending a game day email that’s packed with videos, photos, and stories. Add in our video coverage, and there are now more ways for Penn Staters to stay connected to the football program through The Football Letter than ever before.

Sharing videos that transport Penn Staters onto the field at Beaver Stadium is one way that The Football Letter continues the original vision of Ridge Riley — and continued by John Black — to be the eyes and ears for alumni at games.

Of course, there’s another group that I need to mention: our Penn State alumni audience. We don’t reach that number without alumni and friends following us and sharing our posts. 

Above all, we hope you find value in our coverage. If you’re not at Beaver Stadium on game day, we want to make you feel like you were. If you’re in the stands, we want to make you feel like you were on the field

It’s all about recording and sharing enduring moments. Sometimes that’s in the form of videos, other times with photos, and still other times with John Black’s historic perspective. Through our twice-weekly emails, we combine all these aspects and add in some sharp graphics and features on our blog that readers hopefully find compelling. And it’s delivered right to your inbox, with no need to go searching.

We also updated our Football Letter landing page, which shares historical information on the publication, along with details on how to access past issues, another member benefit.

James Franklin rocking a fedora while celebrating with fans after a season-opening win at Wisconsin is just one example of the types of enduring moments we aim to share with Penn Staters.

Again, thank you for watching, reading, listening, and sharing. We hope to continue to grow our audience, and current Penn Staters who enjoy The Football Letter will play a pivotal role. If you know somebody who likes Penn State football — and we have a feeling that you do — go ahead and encourage them to give us a follow on Twitter or visit our landing page to learn more.

Of course, our audience grows simultaneously with our membership. If you’re not a member of the Alumni Association, you’re always welcome to visit alumni.psu.edu/join to become part of the Pride anytime you like. You’ll receive 30-plus benefits, including all The Football Letter emails throughout the season, and a whole lot more.

Lastly, if you have a story idea or know of a letterman or alumni volunteer who embodies the Success With Honor mantra, let me know at jmp411@psu.edu. We’re always happy to hear stories of Penn State alumni, and we look forward to sharing lots more this season and beyond. 

For more on The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

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The Roaring 20: Penn State-Indiana

Another massive crowd (105,951) packed Beaver Stadium to watch Penn State knock off Indiana 24-0 during the annual Stripe Out game. Photo credit: Penn State

Here are 20 insights from another memorable Saturday in Happy Valley, with plenty of links for videos and photos that showcase the day. Penn State won its ninth straight game and improved to 5-0 with a 24-0 clobbering of Indiana. The Nittany Lions remain at No. 4 in this week’s AP Poll, released earlier Sunday, with this week’s opponent, Iowa, at No. 3.

1. Enjoyed a nice run around campus Saturday morning, and my route takes me the entire length of Curtin Road from Atherton Street to Beaver Stadium. Saw plenty of Penn Staters tailgating early and taking photos at popular campus spots like the Nittany Lion Shrine and the We Are Sculpture. Here’s a link for some of the photos we shared Saturday.

2. Team arrival was as cool as ever. We captured the scene from a new angle, and we got a pretty steady shot of the Blue Band and Nittany Lions walking to the stadium. Many thanks to the fans who made room for me on a nice, square boulder that allowed me to get high enough to capture the scene. You can see our video here.

3. We were fortunate to get a few nice shots of James Franklin welcoming fans during his pregame lap. Check out our video to see how hyped Franklin was before the game.

4. The Lion Ambassadors’ S-Zone looked dynamite Saturday. We snapped a photo from the press box a few hours before kickoff. As you can see, the students were set and ready to go.

The Lion Ambassadors settled into Beaver Stadium early Saturday night to cheer on the Nittany Lions and to create marquee their marquee S-Zone. Photo credit: John Patishnock

5. We got a nice sequence of James Franklin and the Nittany Lions taking the field before kickoff, and with a night-time start, the newly installed lights in the South Tunnel illuminated the shot quite nicely.

6. This week’s highlight video features some shots from the tailgating lots, next to Beaver Stadium, on the south side. Appreciate everyone allowing me to get some video, and the tailgating shots are early on in our highlight video.

7. Fans packed Beaver Stadium quickly leading up to the game. About an hour before kickoff, I looked around and was blown away. One of the team’s media relations pros was walking by, and I remarked to him how amazing the stadium looked. Always good to remind myself that we’re blessed to call Happy Valley home and share this community with so many passionate alumni and fans.

8. The Daily Collegian captured a nice photo of the pregame team entrance and fireworks. It really gives a sense of how much fans have embraced the Stripe Out. Penn State also posted a nice photo, and you can see that image on our Twitter page.

9. It was awesome to see Britt Baker at the game. For Penn Staters who don’t know, Baker is a Penn State grad and professional women’s wrestler for All Elite Wrestling (AEW), which airs nationally on TNT. She’s currently the women’s world champ for AEW, so she’s quite good at what she does. Just as interesting (or perhaps more so), she’s a dentist by day. Really, she is. You can check out her Instagram page to see her in action, and Alumni Association CEO Paul Clifford met her Saturday night and shared this photo. You can also see photos that Baker shared to her Twitter page.

10. Anytime Penn State legend Todd Blackledge returns to campus to call a game, it’s a treat. A few days ago, we shared the image of when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, following Penn State’s epic win over Nebraska in the championship season of 1982. You can see that cover photo on our Twitter page.

11. The postgame alma mater never disappoints. Never. Check out the team and fans singing the alma mater Saturday night, led of course by the Blue Band.

12. Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson connected for two scores Saturday, and the duo now hold the record for most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver combo in Penn State history (18). Perhaps it was meant to happen against Indiana, since Blackledge was in the house. Clifford and Dotson broke the previous mark of 17, held by Blackledge and Kenny Jackson.

13. Anytime people are discussing this year’s Heisman Trophy race, Dotson’s name needs to be included. He’s the premier receiver in college football and helps lead a Top-5 team in the toughest division in the nation. He’s that good and deserves to be near the top of any list of candidates.

14. Following games, Clifford usually shows some fire as he walks up to ring the Victory Bell and celebrate with fans. Saturday was no exception. Check out our video, which shows lots of his teammates always enjoying the moment.

15. Sticking with the Victory Bell, we captured a funny moment between James Franklin and Devyn Ford. The star running back was getting ready to leave the field without ringing the Victory Bell, before Franklin called him back. Reminded me of a similar situation years ago between Franklin and Saquon Barkley. Coaches never stop coaching. You can see the entire sequence here, which includes Franklin ringing the Victory Bell himself.

16. Going back to Clifford, we captured his entire postgame media availability. He discusses his strong bond with Dotson, the team’s performance against Indiana, and a whole lot more. Clifford spoke with the media for a little more than nine minutes, and you can watch the entire video on our YouTube page.

17. Penn State’s next home game is in three weeks, when we’ll welcome tens of thousands of alumni back to University Park for Homecoming. You can read full details on Penn State News, and of special note, you can sign up for free for the popular ice cream social from 1-3 p.m., on Friday, Oct. 22, at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. As always, the Alumni Blue Band will be performing, and between that and free Berkey Creamery ice cream, we expect to see plenty of alumni stop by. We hope you’re among the group. Everyone is also invited to the Nittany Lion Shrine following the Homecoming Parade for Guard the Lion Shrine, hosted by our Lion Ambassadors.

18. Even if you can’t return to Beaver Stadium for home games, you can still cheer on the Nittany Lions with fellow Penn Staters. Many of our alumni chapters across the country host game watch parties (for all games, home and away) at local establishments, where space is reserved for Penn State alumni and fans. Visit our group events page to see what’s available near you.

19. There’s still time to register for the Saturday Pep Rally at Iowa. Visit our website for free sign ups and gather with fellow Nittany Lions while enjoying plenty of Penn State spirit and Penn State Bakery cookies. You can also sign up for our Pep Rallies at Ohio State, Maryland, and Michigan State.

20. Go State. Beat the Hawkeyes.

For more on The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.

Follow the Football Letter on Twitter for more videos, photos, and features.