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

Penn State Preview: Pitt

Penn State at 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. 13/11 Penn State vs. Pitt, noon kickoff, broadcast on ABC.

 

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State boasts an all-time record of 292-74. 

 

Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 74 degrees, with a few showers.

 

The line: Penn State – 17.5

 

Last week: Penn State used an explosive second half to upend Buffalo 45-13, while Pitt outlasted Ohio 20-10.

 

All-time series: Penn State leads 52-43-4.

 

Last meeting (2018): Penn State dominated Pitt in the rain at Heinz Field, winning 51-6.

 

Throwback classic (1981): Once upon a time, Pitt’s football program was nationally relevant. The Panthers were ranked No. 1 in 1981, but not after the Nittany Lions overcame an early two-touchdown deficit to score 48 consecutive points, resulting in a 48-14 victory that dethroned and derailed Pitt. Todd Blackledge outdueled Dan Marino, completing 12-of-23 passes for 262 yards, and two touchdowns to Kenny Jackson. The defense intercepted Marino four times, and the Panthers lost three fumbles. You can read more about the game in this New York Times article.

 

Overview: Here it is, the 100th and last scheduled meeting between Penn State and Pitt. Did this use to be a rivalry? Sure? Is it anymore? Eh, not really. The game is still important, just as much as Idaho and Buffalo, though not more beyond that. As James Franklin said earlier this week, players aren’t choosing Penn State because of the outcome of one game, so there aren’t recruiting implications like before. And it’s a non-conference game. Pitt won in 2016, and Penn State went on to win the Big Ten and play in the Rose Bowl. The Panthers, meanwhile, finished the year 8-5 with a loss to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl. So, this game doesn’t have lasting ramifications like it once did. 

 

Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions establish the running game. Most likely, Penn State will have a handful of explosive plays, with Sean Clifford proving he can throw a nice deep ball. However, Penn State can’t depend on those plays to win. A solid ground attack should go a long way to ensure the Nittany Lions win their third straight in this series.

 

Pitt wins if: the Panthers can put together sustained drives all game. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett struggled last year — indicated by the six points the Panthers scored — though he threw a career-high 321 yards in last week’s victory over the Bobcats. Pitt will need that level of playmaking to have a chance Saturday.

 

Keep an eye on: KJ Hamler. The speedy and electric wide receiver scored on a jet sweep in last year’s game at Heinz Field, and he’s spoken about having his role expanded. Basically, the idea is to get Hamler the ball as much as possible, put him in open space, and let him do what he does best.

 

Trivia tidbit: Penn State has won nine straight games over non-conference opponents.

 

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 42, Pitt 21

 

Vince Lungaro: Penn State 38, Pitt 17

Nittany Lion Look Back (And Ahead)

Buffalo and Pitt

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

UNIVERSITY PARK — It was the proverbial tale of two halves in the second game of the season for Penn State. The Nittany Lions struggled in the first two quarters against a Buffalo team fresh off a 10-win season. Some fans showered the players and coaches with boos as they jogged off the field and into the locker room, not hiding their displeasure in seeing their team down 10-7. 

The second half was a completely different story, though. Penn State blew past the Bulls in dominant fashion, outscoring their MAC foe 38-3 in the second half for a 45-13 win. It was an offensive, and defensive, explosion that showed what the Nittany Lions can become when they’re clicking. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look back at Saturday’s win before looking ahead to Week 3 opponent Pittsburgh. 

Looking Back

Star Of The Game: TE Pat Freiermuth  

After being held to a single catch for negative yardage in the first half, Pat Freiermuth rebounded for a seven-catch, 99-yard performance in the second frame. He said he asked offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne and tight ends coach Tyler Bowen to throw his way more in the second half, and they seemingly obliged. It wasn’t so much he was frustrated with his lack of targets, and more so he felt he was someone the team could lean on to get a spark on offense. The second play of the third quarter saw Clifford connect with Freiermuth for 17 yards to the Buffalo 48-yard line. On Penn State’s second drive, after a John Reid interception return for a touchdown and a punt from Buffalo, Clifford flicked a throw over the middle and Freiermuth did the rest, racing past the safety and into the end zone. In a flash, the Nittany Lions were back in control, 21-10. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Moment of Magic: John Reid’s pick six

Following a Ricky Slade fumble on the Nittany Lions’ opening possession of the third quarter, the Bulls were back on offense, looking to extend their unexpected lead. John Reid wasn’t having it. The fifth-year cornerback read the eyes of Buffalo quarterback Matt Myers perfectly as he threw an out route to his receiver. Reid jumped the route, snagged Myers’ pass and jetted to the end zone. It was exactly the jolt the team, and Beaver Stadium, needed to spring back into life. The boos became cheers and chants. The Nittany Lions never looked back.

Looking Ahead

Mixed bag for Pitt’s Pickett through two weeks

Pitt dropped its season opener to Virginia, 30-14. Starting quarterback Kenny Pickett was under duress all game long behind a Panthers offensive line that is breaking in four new starters. Pickett attempted 41 passes against the Cavaliers, but completed just 21 of them for 185 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Things were much better in the Week Two win over Ohio, with Pickett throwing a career-high 321 yards and a touchdown. He was also much better protected, with the Panthers only surrendering a single sack. 

Injuries to the Pitt defensive front

The Panthers will be without two key pieces when they face the Nittany Lions. Junior defensive tackle Keyshon Camp, who injured his knee in the season opener, has been ruled out for the season. So to has junior defensive end Rashad Weaver, who went down with a knee injury during training camp.

Coming to an end

Saturday’s game between Penn State and Pitt is the last scheduled meeting between the two Commonwealth rivals. There are no immediate plans to renew the series after the latest four-game matchup. Pitt won in dramatic fashion in 2016. The Nittany Lions have dominated the past two games, though, beating the Panthers by a combined score of 84-20. Penn State is looking to make it three wins in a row over the Panthers, and claim its 53rd win in the series.

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Ki-Jana & Saquon, In Stride

It was one of those Twitter moments that even folks who spend a lot of time on Twitter might have missed, a brief conversation between two guys 20-some years apart, but with more than a little in common.

KJSB

The first tweet came from Ki-Jana Carter ’95, a name that anyone reading this blog should be familiar with. The second came from Saquon Barkley, a young man Penn State fans—and a couple of unfortunate defenses—have learned all about the past two weeks. If one reminds you a bit of the other, you’re probably not alone. Continue reading

A Drone’s-Eye View of Beaver Stadium

By day, Jesse Brown is an IT consultant in Penn State’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations—one of the go-to guys on an incredibly helpful and friendly tech staff that we’re lucky to have. But by night (and on certain mornings and weekends), Brown is an amateur drone pilot who has compiled some very cool footage of Beaver Stadium, all controlled via an app on his iPad.

With the Nittany Lions’ home opener this Saturday, we recently caught up with Brown Continue reading