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#23 Iowa Outplays Penn State, 6-4
Paterno, not players, booed!
State College, PA - You'd think that there isn't much to say about a 6-4 defensive struggle like the one witnessed this day, but there were lots of emotions displayed in (Un)Happy Valley as a legend among coaches was showered with boos from close to 90,000 fans as the Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2, 3-1) controlled an anemic Penn State offense and struggled with a very tough Lion defense. Iowa converted two FGs and gave PSU 2 more points intentionally to win this Big Ten contest by the unusual score of 6-4. The only other time CFF knows of a similar score recorded is when Princeton and Rutgers clashed in the first college football game ever played back in 1869, although the scoring was different back then. Iowa has key conference contests remaining with Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin after facing Illinois next week to determine its bowl fate. PSU (2-5, 0-4) has four games remaining that will indicate that the future there is not very bright, and the feeling around State College is that major changes will need to be made to rehabilitate this once proud program.
Iowa gave PSU its first two points of the day on its very first punt attempt less than two minutes into the game. The snap from center sailed over P David Bradley's head and into the end zone where Bradley kicked it out to avoid a PSU recovery to settle for a 2-0 PSU advantage. After PSU received the free kick, the two teams exchanged punts. A much more confident punt returner from a year ago, Calvin Lowry, returned the ball for PSU to the Iowa 24. The Lion offense then went backwards, and PK Robbie Gould's 50 yard FG attempt came up short. The Hawkeyes drove from their own 34 to attempt a 30-yard FG attempt of their own. However, the fake was on and U of Iowa proceeded to run to the PSU 9-yard line for a first down. But, the Lions held tough to force a FG, and this time PK Kyle Schlicher converted his 27-yard FG attempt to take a 3-2 Hawkeye lead.
In the second quarter, Iowa DB Sean Considine picked off a Zack Mills pass and returned it 51 yards to the Nittany Lion 10-yard line. PSU's defense thwarted a third and three situation at the three when QB Drew Tate was sacked for a loss. Schlicher converted again from 27 to build a 6-2 Hawkeye lead. An exchange of interceptions, one on a dazzling tip and pick by PSU DE Lavon Chisley at the line of scrimmage, and an exchange of punts finished the half, but not before one had to question JoePa's state of mind when it comes to clock management. With :08 remaining and his offense which was ineffective throughout the first half and near its own 10-yard line, Paterno called his first time-out of the half. All of a sudden the old coach had a trick up his sleeve to score from 90 yards away in eight seconds? As Guest Fame Analyst Frank Lorito pointed out, the PSU offense was achieving one first down per quarter! They ended up with six for the game. We remember the poor clock management by PSU last year against Ohio State which we think cost the Lions the game in a 21-20 loss. There was no need to prolong the offense's stay on the field before this half. It was time to go to the locker room and make adjustments. It makes one wonder what the 77-year old coach is thinking about sometimes. The first half ended as Mills was sacked for a loss.
Halftime was highlighted by the introduction of former Lion RB Lydell Mitchell who will enter the College Football Hall of Fame. It made PSU fans lament for their old powerhouse days. The Big Ten champ PSU women's soccer team was introduced. Later, PSU introduced its national championship men's gymnastics team. It caused several fans to comment if they'd been attending the right sporting events on the State College campus. One exclaimed, "We win at everything now but football and basketball (men's, any way)!"
To start the half, Mills connected with RB/QB Mike Robinson on one pass for 37 of the team's total of 147 yards on the day to get to the Iowa 45, but that's as far as the PSU "O" could go. P Jeremy Kapinos gave PSU a potential break when he punted the ball to the one-yard line, putting Iowa's backs to the end zone. Holding Iowa to eventually punt from the nine, PSU partially blocked the ball and took over on the Iowa nine. The anemic PSU offense gained one more yard on three plays, and PK Robbie Gould missed the 25 yard chip shot to fail to close the gap to one. The score stood at 6-2. Iowa took over and punted again as the announced crowd of 108,062 (sold seats, not actual attendance which was more like 90,000), stood and cheered for the efforts of the tough, hustling, hard-hitting PSU defense as they came off the field with another valiant effort. Mills was sacked and injured on the next PSU series. Michael Robinson took over at QB, and no improvement was evident. Before the third period expired, Lion DT Ed Johnson stripped the ball from QB Drew Tate and PSU recovered at the 50. The PSU faithful stirred when the offense converted a fourth and three at the Iowa 19 to a first and ten at the Iowa ten, but RCB Antawn Allen picked off a Michael Robinson pass near the left sideline and put the Hawks back on offense at their own eight. Had he not stepped out of bounds there, the Hawkeye DB had a lot of empty space between himself and the end zone 92 yards away. PSU's D rose to the occasion again sacking Tate at the one, almost for a safety. However, Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz obliged on the next play, as he had P David Bradley take the snap and run it out of the end zone to take the safety and cut his own team's lead to 6-4. He was telling Penn State indirectly that he knew their sputtering offense could not move the ball to threaten to score with 8:04 remaining in the game. And how right he was. After PSU took over on its own 34 after the free kick, WR Terrell Golden missed a golden opportunity as he dropped a Robinson pass when he was wide open. On the next play, Iowa DB Jovon Johnson picked off the fourth Lion pass on the day, second off Michael Robinson, to take over again at his team's own 40. PSU forced a punt again after Iowa reached its 35. At his own 20, Robinson fumbled and Iowa took over at the PSU 15 with 1:31 left. The Hawkeyes ran out the clock to prevail with a final score of 6-4. Not to take anything away from the Hawkeyes, who lost top RB and primary offensive weapon Jemelle Lewis early in the season, but the Lion defense was outstanding while the Lion offense displayed one of the worst efforts of teamwork and strategy ever seen by CFF and many PSU fans. Many fans commented that high school teams could play better offense that PSU! The Iowa secondary was tough, experienced and talented coming in, but the lack of imagination and execution on the PSU offense is cause for concern for everyone involved in or following the program. The team will stick together, but the administration is going to have to ask itself some tough questions about where this program is, where it is heading in the future, and what needs to be changed.
Extra Points: In the defensive struggle, which CFF had predicted, Iowa amassed 161 yards to Penn State's 147.
It seems more Penn State fans than ever are starting to question whether it was wise to give 77-year old JoePa a four year extension to his contract. The boos cascading down on the field in the second half after another inept offensive series was not being directed at the players on the field, but as one fan shouted, "It's not for the players, Joe! It's for you!" We note that though Fran Ganter stepped out and Galen Hall stepped in as the offensive coordinator this year, the offensive play calling is as unimaginative as it's always been. Despite the coaching change, play calling hasn't changed. Why not? Some fans think it wasn't a good move to bring in another "old" coach like Hall (age 62) into a program filled with older coaches. Some new, young blood seems to be needed, but will JoePa ever let go of the reigns? Others question whether his own son, Jay, is a qualified QB coach. As CFF has always attested, PSU is not known for developing QBs, and Zack Mills has gotten no better here since his freshman year. We're sure that's why Chris Simms made a last minute maneuver to forgo PSU for Tennessee before landing at Texas for his college career. Some fans point out the receiving coach is a former QB (Mike McQuery). Can anyone still truly refer to PSU as Linebacker U, although Soph Paul Posluszny and Frosh Dan Connor both look promising? Little surge is seen from the offensive line. We've heard that for several years, but nothing is changing for the better as a running game is non-existent.
There were a lot of empty seats at Beaver Stadium and you can get great ticket bargains in the parking lot prior to the game. One fan said he had bargained with his wife to come to only two games this year so he would watch his twin sons play pee wee football on Saturdays, now he says he wouldn't mind missing any PSU games. Another said, he's really got to think about not buying tickets next year and many others should do the same to send the message. Like CFF, he noted that it's not fun coming up to watch this team play any more, and it's not going to change with the current coaching staff. As much as CFF respects the mutual relationship between the school and JoePa, who has given the University so much in time, money, honor and recognition, it's time for the old coach to realize that there is a time that he has to step down with honor. Once again, he's going to have to make a personal sacrifice for the school and football program that he loves so much. CFF believes that there is a compromise here. Joe Paterno is PSU's greatest ambassador, and though it's time to hand the reigns over to a new Coach (and not one who is part of the current program), he would be the greatest recruiter the school could ever have. What coach wouldn't want to send the "Coach Emeritus" to a recruit's home to expound the virtues of the school and its football program? This would give him the opportunity to maintain the integrity of the football program he created while giving him the opportunity to be a vital part of the program and Penn State community he loves after he steps down as head coach. CFF saw him walk the sideline alone away from his team after the second missed FG of the game. We wonder if he may be having second thoughts himself. As much as he would miss it, it's time to do it for the good of the team. We hope that JoePa will sort things out and make the right decision for Penn State, and himself, soon. Maybe President Graham Spanier should start posing the right questions to the legendary Penn State Coach. With no recent bowl bids and many empty seats at the 107,282 seat stadium, and more pending due to fan and alumni frustration, it's going to get tougher and tougher to fund all those other non-revenue producing, championship teams on campus. Even their success is built on the success of the PSU football program, and three more years of football ineptitude could hurt all PSU sports programs financially. Stepping down will probably be the toughest thing the old coach will have to do for the school he has already done so much for.
PSU's defense is a good mix of experience and new players. The D might be good for a few years to come, but it's frustrating when there seems to be no chance to put many points on the board. In four Big Ten games, the offense has only placed 23 points on the scoreboard. Akron and CFU, PSU's two victims, are horrible MAC teams this year.
Many fans are irate that JoePa did not redshirt Frosh QB Anthony Morelli. Now that he's lost this year, they feel that they might as well give him a chance to show what he can do and get him some experience. CFF has a bigger fear for PSU that Morelli might get frustrated with what he sees regarding a lack of development and decide that he made the wrong choice of schools which may prompt him to transfer elsewhere at the end of the season. Others have done the same in the past.
Despite the loss, the tailgating was great in (un)Happy Valley. This was our last trip there this year. With opportunities to see many new teams next year and the insignificance of PSU in Big Ten competition, we're not sure what games we'll get to yet. Once we sort through our opportunities, we still want to get back to Beaver Stadium. It's not a season without getting up there a few times each season.