By Adam Jacobi on October 12, 2019 at 11:14 pm
Nate Stanley sacked
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Hello darkness, our old friend.

Stop us if you've heard this before: a fast, aggressive defense overwhelmed Iowa's offensive line and the Hawkeyes couldn't string drives together, resulting in a ranked loss.

Penn State followed Michigan's blueprint, rattling Nate Stanley into a mistake-filled performance, and the Nittany Lions prevailed 17-12. A Brandon Smith leaping touchdown with under 3 minutes to go provided a bright spot on an otherwise typically bleak performance.

That was Iowa's first touchdown against a Power 5 defense in 26 drives, and it took a minor miracle of a play to do it. For an offense with a senior, 3-year starting QB and this much talent and depth at its skill positions, that is HORRENDOUS production. But lord, that offensive line.

Iowa guard Cole Banwart suffered a torn ACL in practice this week, causing even more upheaval for the interior of the line at a time when it needed it the least. Mark Kallenberger was shifted over to LG as he earned his first collegiate start; it didn't matter. Nobody Iowa had available at guard had any answer for Penn State's defensive rush. Even highly praised center Tyler Linderbaum struggled for the second straight week, and although Penn State was only credited with two sacks and four QB hurries, the defensive line was ruining Iowa's offense the entire game. 

The phrase "Iowa's line desperately misses Kyler Schott" would have sounded insane starting the season; Schott wasn't even on the two-deeps. And to be clear, he likely wouldn't have turned the tide of line-of-scrimmage control single-handedly. It's just been achingly apparent than in the last two games that Iowa needs his tough, technically sound presence next to a still-developing center.

For crying out loud, they wasted a Ricky Stanzi appearance.

Nate Stanley took another step back in development, and a rare such step at home. Some of this is due to running for his life for the whole game, of course; Iowa had no prayer of getting into a rhythm on offense. It's also hard to look like a great QB when you're firing 3-yard out routes like a Greg Davis Sings The Hits routine. But he missed an easy slant to Brandon Smith on 2nd and goal at the end of the first half that would have scored a touchdown, and those four extra points would have come in handy, to say the least. He missed downfield more than usual. And he's just not consistently getting the ball away when he needs to, which usually spells disaster against a great pass rush.

Iowa's defense started out the game on fire, pressuring Sean Clifford on nearly every snap and allowing just 10 yards of total offense in the first quarter. You can look at tailback Noah Cain for the sole reason the PSU offense got on track; he took over the RB-by-committee and rushed for 102 yards on the day, including the clinching touchdown with 5:17 left and the game-ending first down on 3rd and 3 after Iowa's last-gasp touchdown. Jack Koerner is fine at safety, but his attempts to stuff Cain ended with only slightly more dignity than Frank Duong vs. Shonn Greene.

The only positive about this game is that it's over, and Iowa only has one more nightmarish defense on its schedule with that trip to Wisconsin. Good things are still possible for the season, but Iowa has so, so many things to work on in the meantime. 

Wait, one more positive:

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