The Good: Special Teams
Fun fact: Special Teams actually scored 17 of Iowa’s 24 points on Saturday! First, there was the punt block by Dominique Dafney that resulted in a safety. On Iowa’s next drive they’d take a 5-0 lead with a 27-yard Miguel Recinos field goal. Then there was the bonkers trick play between Colten Rastetter and Sam Brincks:
There was a second Penn State safety (unforced, to be honest) and a beautiful 49-yard field goal to give the Hawkeyes 17 points. Recinos was perfect on the day, Rastetter had a decent game punting the ball and prevented KJ Hamler from doing any damage, and Ihmir Smith-Marsette was his usual electric self in the kick return game, totaling 103 yards on three kicks with a long of 49. Special teams kept Iowa in the football game and arguably could’ve won it had the offense not been so abysmal.
The Bad: Nate Stanley
Well, here we are again. Stanley followed up his poor performance against Maryland with, well, a pathetic performance against Penn State. He went 18/49 for 205 yards, two interceptions and three sacks. 18/49 comes out to a completion percentage of 36.7% if you’re wondering.
We should’ve been concerned from the beginning as Stanley made an awful throw out of bounds resulting in an intentional grounding penalty on the very first offensive play of the game. Later, when the Hawkeyes were up 14-7, they faced a 3rd and 1 from the Penn State 48-yard line. Play-action was called and executed to perfection by Stanley, leading to an unthinkably wide open T.J. Hockenson. He was so wide-open it seemed unrealistic. It was like it was too good to be true.
And it was. Because Stanley overthrew him by about 5 feet. Not inches. Feet.
Iowa went for it on 4th down anyway and converted, but had to punt later in the drive.
On Iowa’s very next possession, Stanley threw an abysmal interception that was returned to the Hawkeye 3-yard line. Penn State scored on the next play, tying the game 14-14.
Through the first three quarters, he only had eight (8!) completions. He was far better on Iowa’s penultimate drive of the game, leading the Hawkeyes down to Penn State’s 3-yard line before…well, before everyone dropped the ball except for a Nittany Lion player. Here’s the play:
Alright, so let’s break down how everyone made bad decisions here. First off, there was 3:26 left on the clock and Penn State wasn’t having problems moving the ball in the fourth quarter. You probably didn’t want to hurry up and score, which leads to the second point of: why aren’t you running the ball? Yes, I understand that Penn State was doing a good job at shutting down Iowa’s running game. Still, it’s three yards.
Continuing on, why did Stanley audible at the line with approximately five seconds left on the play clock? I saw people on social media blaming Fant. LOL. Sorry, I know it’s convenient but you can’t blame a Fant for everything. It was loud and the offense needed enough time to communicate the audible. There wasn’t enough time, so Fant was caught off guard and everyone hurried through the play, resulting in an interception.
I heard that Ferentz attempted to call a timeout. He should’ve run faster.
Whatever is going on with Stanley, he needs to figure it out. I’m not a “PUT IN WIEGERS” type of guy but the argument can be made that he was the primary contributor to Iowa losing Saturday’s football game. He’s one of the most talented quarterbacks Iowa has had in years. He just needs to get his head right.
The Ugly: The Coaching
Anymore, it’s rare that Iowa loses a football game due to coaching. I think back to the 2017 Purdue game when Ferentz was shamed by Jeff Brohm, but other than that, the situations are few and far between. I can think of a few specific instances where coaching cost Iowa this football game.
Let’s talk about the end of the half. Up 17-14, Iowa had a 4th and 10 at the Penn State 42-yard line. The smart move would be to punt the ball. So what does Iowa do? They call some sort of fake punt where Peyton Mansell has an option to throw or punt the ball. Mansell decides to run, he's tackled immediately and the Nittany Lions get the ball back with decent field position. They’d pick up a few yards and kick a long field goal to tie the game at 17. Why not just commit to the punt? Why screw around there?
How about Penn State’s first drive of the second half, when Phil Parker called Cover 0 on 3rd and 2 at the Penn State 49-yard line? A goal line set at mid-field? That’s risky, Phil. I guess that’s why Trace McSorely ran 51 yards for a touchdown. Because there wasn’t anyone in the defensive backfield to stop him.
Then we come to the Stanley/audible/interception fiasco. Someone should’ve recognized the confusion and been quicker to act. Maybe it’s on Stanley for making the call. Maybe it’s on the coaches for allowing it to happen. Either way, it happened.
Maybe it’s on the coaches for keeping Stanley in the game for too long. He was bad before he hit his hand on the back of Keegan Render’s helmet. He was worse after. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose, but when you’ve got some of Iowa’s most reliable newspapermen questioning whether or not there should be a change at quarterback, maybe there should’ve been a change at quarterback.
Time and time again the Hawkeyes have the chance at winning the big game. Time and time again they choke it away. Now Iowa will have to depend on the charity of others if they hope to win the Big Ten West.