It was probably over before Penn State backup quarterback Tommy Stevens took a jet sweep 13 yards for a touchdown, running over Iowa’s best defender in the process. That score put the Nittany Lions up 41-7 on a Hawkeye team that was desperate for life… and never found it.
No, it was probably over when all-everything running back Saquon Barkley caught a Trace McSorely wheel-route pass wide open down the right sideline. Barkley torched Iowa junior linebacker Bo Bower down the sideline and high-stepped into the end zone.
REPLAY: Come for the easy Barkley catch and run. Stay for the high-step.https://t.co/Va54X33Bt0
— Derek Levarse (@TLdlevarse) November 6, 2016
That was the score that put Penn State up, 34-7, in the fourth quarter. That was the back-breaker and Barkley knew it. Stevens’s gritty touchdown, which got the fans cheering and the Penn State bench jumping, was the cherry on top.
No matter what point of the game you might identify as the moment Iowa lost it — and there were many: a missed 4th-and-1 play that set the tone in the first quarter, or all of Barkley’s rushing touchdowns — the sad reality for Hawkeye fans is that this game was probably lost before the team even got off the bus.
Penn State, which played as the No. 12 team in the nation during this contest, is absolutely on fire. PSU head coach James Franklin has finally caught up to his potential and he has the Nittany Lions playing tremendous football. PSU has now won five games in a row, including a 24-21 win over No. 2 Ohio State.
Iowa, on the other hand, has been through a September and October in which it lost to FCS-level North Dakota State University at home on a last-second field goal, while also losing to a mediocre Northwestern team and a very tough and highly ranked Wisconsin team.
No, it hasn’t been easy for Kirk Ferentz and his Hawkeyes, and even in the games they’ve won this season, bright spots have been few and far in between. The 42-3 win over archrival Iowa State seems like seasons ago at this point.
The fact of the matter is that Penn State is legitimately one of the top teams in the nation, and Iowa is an average team — and sometimes even average can be a kind descriptor. But if that description of the difference between the two teams seems a bit harsh to you, just take a look at the numbers from Saturday night’s game, because they flesh it out.
In just about every category, Iowa was dominated by Penn State.
Penn State won the yardage battle running away, putting up 599 yards to Iowa’s 234.
Sophomore Trace McSorely had himself a nice ballgame, putting up 240 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-18 passing. Iowa’s defense — which was so adept at forcing turnovers in last season’s Rose Bowl run — couldn’t pick McSorely off or force any fumbles.
The Hawkeyes suffered an interception from C.J. Beathard, who was 18-of-26 on the night for only 204 yards. And believe it or not, Beathard’s performance through the air against PSU was actually one of his better performances as of late. His 204 yards tied for his second-highest yards total of the season. In all, Beathard has thrown for over 200 yards in only three games in 2016.
Iowa’s rushing attack has led the way in 2016 — which is generally to be expected with the Hawkeyes — but even that unit couldn’t get anything going against Penn State. The Nittany Lions held Iowa to only 30 total yards on the ground.
Akrum Wadley notched 28 yards on nine carries and LeShun Daniels Jr. had 18 yards on 10 rushes (1.8 yards per carry). Beathard was “credited” with negative 16 yards. He couldn’t get anything going with his normally effective dual-threat capabilities. As a team, the Hawkeyes rushed for 1.2 yards per carry.
Iowa was only 2-of-10 on third down, while the Nittany Lions went 7-of-14. Iowa did win the penalty battle, committing four to Penn State’s nine, but that was about the only thing the Hawkeyes won on the night.
Penn State dominated time of possession, winning 35:03 to 24.57, and even though the Hawkeyes knew they had to stop the run heading into the contest — they just couldn’t do it.
Barkley was again the star for Penn State, but he wasn’t the only rusher who thrived for a once-dominant Iowa run defense (the 2015 season feels even further away than the ISU win). As a team, Penn State rushed for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
— Andrew Kulha (@TodaysUAndrew) November 6, 2016
Yeah, it was that kind of night for the Hawkeyes, and it has been that kind of season.