Nittany Lions Rip Hawkeyes
By BILL ALBRIGHT
EasternPAFootball/WesternPAFootball Senior Writer
University Park – If you didn’t believe it before, believe it now. The Penn State Nittany Lion football team is for real.
Scoring first and often Saturday night at Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions showed the Iowa Hawkeyes the short way home as they pounded the Hawks for a 41-7 lead before walking off the field with a 41-14 win much to the delight of 106,184 fans.
“I want to thank first of all the fans for coming out,” said PSU head coach James Franklin. “It was an unbelievable home-field environment, 106,000 fans going crazy was awesome and they have a significant impact so we’re very thankful and very appreciative of the support that we’re getting. I think that’s important.
“A couple things I want to hit on that you might be aware of, but I want to talk about because I think they’re significant,” continued Franklin. “From a negative standpoint, we have to clean up the penalties, we didn’t do a great job of that. We will work on that this week. I thought the third-down conversions were huge, 50 percent on third down. Something we hadn’t really done and we’ve been emphasizing it and we improved on it. Scoring on the opening drive, that’s something that we emphasized earlier in the year and we’re starting to show improvement there. We talked about how physical this game was going to be up front and we proved that we can match up with people and we’re making tremendous progress. Sean Spencer with the d-line and coach Limegrover with the o-line, really proud of those guys. Holding that team to 30 yards rushing was big time. Second straight game holding our opponent under 50 yards. We didn’t have any three-and-outs on offense which really helped our defense as well. I don’t know if I already mentioned this, but Iowa had only been giving up 18 points per game and we were able to put some points on the board. Then Troy Apke getting his first career interception was really good. We won the field position battle, we started on our 33 and they started on their own 21. That’s been a consistent theme all year long for us. The turnover battle, we knew this was going to be the story of this game. They had not been turning the ball over, they did not make mistakes. We talked about that and we didn’t make mistakes. We won the turnover battle and then we won the explosive plays; we had 13 explosive plays to their two. To me they are the most important statistics in the game that were telling and I’m really proud of how our team is playing. The confidence that they’re building and really playing well in all three phrases. They’re really just playing complimentary football right now.”
The Lions were offensive and defensive in the win. Offensively, they piled up 599 yards, while holding the Hawkeyes to just 30 yards rushing.
The Lions scored on their first possession, a 19-yard pass from McSorley to Saeed Blacknell.
“It was huge for us to start out really fast and then for us to score on the first drive, that’s big,” said wide receiver Chris Godwin. “That’s an emphasis for us always starting fast and getting points on the board.”
With 4:32 gone in the second period, Saquon Barkley did his thing when he ripped off a 57-yard run to the house for a touchdown, and that was only the start of good things to happen for the Lions as they never looked back.
For the game Barkley finished with 167 yards rushing, 44 receiving yards, one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown.
“We knew Iowa’s focused on being physical, being technically sound and blue-collar football, and we wanted to show that we were able to do it too,” said Barkley. “We were able to rack up I think 300-something yards rushing the ball and almost 600 yards total offense. The O-line did a great job. We’re really meshing. As an offense as a whole, we’re really meshing. It starts up front, and guys are doing a tremendous job of leading those guys and making the right calls to put us in position to be successful.” Junior tight end Mike Gesicki also pointed out the physical nature of the game and how the Lions accepted the challenge, stepped up and executed.
“Every single week we improve obviously, but I think we were extremely physical tonight with an extremely physical Iowa team,” said Gesicki. “ So to go out there and play the way we did at a physical level and executed was big for us. Coach (Joe) Moorhead is a very smart man when it comes to the offensive side of the ball, and we’re just happy to execute.”
As for the offensive success of the Lions, quarterback Trace McSorley said it was just a matter of taking advantage of what Iowa gave them. “I guess our design is always to take what they give us so that’s part of it, but through our running game we were confident what we could do running the ball,” said McSorley. “We were able to find a couple things that we were able to get good chunk plays, get 5-6 yard of pop every time. So we were able to kind of go back to those and we knew we needed to get into manageable third downs or cut to the chains in half. I think we did a really good job with that – utilizing those with our RPO’s and our play action pass game, everything really complimented each other tonight.” Defensively, the Lions have been outstanding against the run. Is it being healthy or just gaining confidence?
“Probably a mixture of both especially this week,” said linebacker Jason Cabinda. “We knew that was the number one thing we needed to do. We needed to stop the run, stop the stress and stop the power. I think they had around 30 to 35 rushing yards today and I think we really executed in that aspect and got that down and made their offense one-dimensional.”
One of the big negatives these past few weeks have been the penalties. How much of a concern is that and how do the Lions go about cleaning those up?
“I think today and in general the guys are playing really hard,” said Cabinda. “I had a couple bad penalties today, which is kind of uncharacteristic for me. We have to clean those up. Luckily the defense had my back, we still got the stops that we needed and finished the day with a win. We just have to clean it up. It is as simple as that.”
Now 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten, the Lions face Indiana and Rutgers on the road before returning to Beaver Stadium to close out the regular season for a clash with Michigan State.
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