A lackadaisical, listless, leaderless Iowa Hawkeyes football team, playing to salvage something out of a season that started with promise and quickly hurtled back to mediocrity, was mollywhopped by Penn State 41-14 Saturday night. The Hawkeyes, now 5-4 this season and 3-3 in the Big Ten, finally gave away what little chance they had at a Big Ten West championship. With Michigan and Nebraska ahead, bowl eligibility looks to be in serious jeopardy. The last time Iowa lived through a game this bad...well, it was the Rose Bowl. But 2015 feels so far away right now.
The game was effectively over by halftime, with Penn State building a 24-7 lead and dominating on both sides of the ball. Offensively, PSU coordinator Joe Moorhead attacked Iowa at the flanks, taking the Hawkeyes' interior front out of the game and pressuring outside linebackers Ben Niemann and Bo Bower to get to the edge, shed blocks, and tackle in space. Needless to say, Iowa's linebackers were nowhere near up to the task. Penn State outrushed Iowa 170-34 in the first half. Quarterback Trace McSorley outplayed C.J. Beathard, not that it was even necessary. Penn State finished the game with 599 yards of total offense and ran for a staggering 359 yards, despite playing its second-string offense for most of the fourth quarter.
And yet, somehow, the defensive debacle was secondary to the continued ineptitude of Iowa's offense. Iowa managed just 30 total yards on the ground, actually losing four yards rushing in the second half. Back in 2004, when Iowa beat Penn State 6-4 in the Greatest Game Ever Played, legend holds that Iowa linebackers Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge were calling out Penn State plays based solely on alignment. On Saturday night, Penn State got its revenge.
Watch Penn State know Iowa's predictable play call pic.twitter.com/4pYTSGuNYZ— Heavens! (@HeavensHawkeye) November 6, 2016
All of the discussion of Akrum Wadley as a slot receiver came to its inevitable conclusion: Wadley running a few jet sweeps literally pulled straight out of the Jonathan Parker play set from 2014, a play set that (like the Wadley runs Saturday) was wholly predictable the moment Parker went into the game. Penn State understood early that Wadley and Leshun Daniels in the game at the same time meant Wadley in the slot, and Wadley in the slot meant jet sweep. They played accordingly. And nobody seems to understand why Iowa keeps doing this.
This game, this offense, it feels like KF is trying to make a point that only he can articulate.— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) November 6, 2016
Iowa has now lost the two games it has played against Penn State since Joe Paterno's firing by a total score of 79-28. They looked almost identical.
Iowa's offense is, quite literally, stretch runs to the left side of the line and a flea flicker. It is slow in development, slow in execution, slow in every possible way. It is inept. It is incompetent. It is a bumbling, incoherent, comical shambles completely lacking in any organization or strategic thinking. It is so bad that, at the current rate, Iowa would need to play 59 games for its quarterback to match his touchdown total from the year before.
Iowa used to be Penn State's biggest nemesis, the program that derailed perfect seasons in 2008 and 2009. But with Paterno's predictability gone, Iowa has been reduced to shade-throwing from the press box.
"It was five years ago today they slapped the handcuffs on Jerry Sandusky..." Dolph...just now. I like it— Jon Miller (@HawkeyeNation) November 6, 2016
I promised to be positive this week, to not write a sarcastic comment about Kirk Ferentz's contract, to try to find something to cheer. So hey! Saturday night's score is a palindrome, the first score palindrome for Iowa since a 31-13 win over Minnesota in...2012.