Sport

Sizing up Big Ten football as we (kinda) launch into conference season

Sizing up Big Ten football as we (kinda) launch into conference season”

Tommy Stevens will take over as Penn State's starting quarterback eventually.

Down 27-14 in the fourth quarter, Florida (2-1, 2-0) got within a touchdown on Brandon Powell's 6-yard TD run with 7:58 left.

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley is healthy and ready to go against the Nittany Lions. Even though Iowa QB Nathan Stanley passed for 191 yards and a pair of scores, one came on the 70-yard throw to Wadley. Iowa has won eight of its past nine night games at home, knocking off then-No.

Quarterback Trace McSorley delivered his best pass when it mattered most in what was otherwise a lackluster performance. He caught 12 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.

The 2017 version of the Hawkeyes looks much like Kirk Ferentz' teams of the past, they play the run very tough on defense and have held opponents to 19.3 points per game. Penn State finally scored a touchdown on the drive as Barkley took it in from 8 yards for a 15-7 lead with 5:16 to go in the third quarter.

But Penn State got to work from their own 20-yard line to put together what must be considered this generation's version of "The Drive". Even when holes haven't there for Barkley he has simply burned team through the air, hauling in 11 catches for 241 yards and two touchdowns so far.

But as was the case in the first half, the Nittany Lions couldn't parlay chunk gains into points that would have provided peace of mind.

Iowa has a 10-4 record all-time under the lights at Kinnick Stadium, including wins in the four games it has hosted at night in the past two seasons. Franklin believes his No. 2 quarterback has a mastery of the offense on par with McSorley's.

Best hit: Late in the first half, McSorley was hit by Iowa defensive end Sam Brincks, leading to an interception that Jewell returned 33 yards to the PSU 21.

Toward the end of the third period, he was sacked by A.J. Epenesa and fumbled on the Iowa 45. But no one else on the team has caught a pass longer than 35 yards.

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The first half was a particular slog.

Penn State won the Big Ten championship previous year in large part because of its quick-strike scoring offense.

The Penn State offense racked up 579 total yards in a game where they only scored 21 points, but it was enough to escape an upset in Iowa. The Hawkeyes had only one first down until the 4:34 mark of the second period.

How do you survive the Kinnick Stadium night game curse?

It has been one year since Penn State's last regular-season loss, a 49-10 rout to MI in Week 4 of 2016.

Penn State's offense in the first half ran almost 30 plays in Iowa territory and had 219 total yards but only three points to show for their effort as the Iowa defense matched the Nittany Lions tackle for tackle.

The Iowa fans did their part by wearing either black or gold depending on what section they were in, creating a ideal striping effect in the stands except for those few vacant seats in the end zones and a small swath of white where the Penn State fans Saturday.

We don't have that pure conference-opening weekend anymore, so Saturday's slate with three conference games - Penn State at Iowa, Michigan at Purdue and Rutgers at Nebraska - will suffice.

On Saturday night special teams were a bit of a disaster for the Nittany Lions and it almost cost them the game.



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