For All Hawkeyes
By Shawn Gibbs
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – The song “You Must Love Me” sung by Madonna starts out “Where do we go from here/This isn’t where we intended to be/We had it all/You believed in me/I believed in you. After a season of such promise following last year’s historic campaign, at this juncture, it is, perhaps, a fitting theme song for the uncertainty for the remainder of the 2016 Iowa Football season after a 41-14-blowout loss to Penn State in front of 106,194 in Happy Valley.
Penn State set the tone early when freshman Miles Sanders 48 yard kickoff return to start the game and then Saquon Barkely and Trace McSorley ran multiple misdirections and zone read plays to pace a 6 play 52 yard drive culminating in a 19 yard pass from Penn State QB Trace McSorley to Saeed Blacknall over a beaten Desmond King.
As for the Iowa offense, fans that were hoping for a rejuvenation or miracle following the bye week were treated to more of the same. Iowa was unable to muster any sustained drives in the 1st quarter, despite being gifted 4 Penn State penalties totaling 50 yards. Iowa could only account for 41 yards of their own and successive drives stalled when Iowa was unable to convert a 4th and 1 and 3rd and 2.
“Where do you want to start, they took the opening kickoff to midfield and scored quickly…offensively failing to convert on 3rd down and 4th down in the first half, we just weren’t up to the task,” Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said.
When asked why Iowa continued to employ the same formation on short yardage situations, Ferentz remarked “We’ve had success with it throughout, really our issues this year have been more on 3rd and long situations.”
Barkley, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, ripped off a 57 yard run down the left sideline on a 3rd and 5 play to start the 2nd Quarter. Barkley followed up his 207 yard rushing effort against Purdue with a 167-yard effort on 20 carries.
Following three consecutive pass plays of 13, 5, and 43 yards from McSorley to Junior Tight End Mike Gesicki put McSorley into position to cap off a 62 yard drive with a 1 yard run to put the Nittany Lions up 21-0. The Hawkeyes finally got on the board when Quarterback CJ Beathard found Akrum Wadley on a screen pass. Wadley decided to forego his screen blockers and cut back to the middle to make the score 21-7 at the half.
Ferentz complemented Penn State: “They put a lot of pressure on you, the running back is a tremendous football player and the quarterback is playing well with a lot of confidence. They’re a very good football team.”
Iowa struggled in both phases giving up 348 yard of offense in the first half. But, equally glaring was the continuing struggles of the offense mustering only 128 yards. “It’s concerning, you’ve got to score points, we’re clearly not doing well enough at this point, it’s a team effort,” Ferentz commented after being asked about the offensive struggles.
The rushing attack was neutered throughout the constest. Mustering only 30 yards in the first half, they netted 0 yards in the 3rd quarter and only managed 4 more in the 4th.
After CJ Beathard was picked off by Troy Apke to start the 4th Quarter, Barkley took the next play, a 44 yard pass with a trailing Bo Bower to put the Nittany Lions up 34-7. Some moral victories, a 36 yard touchdown pass from Beathard to Jerminic Smith and a tackle for loss on the final play of the game to keep Penn State under 600 yards did little to give any comfort to the Iowa head coach.
“None of us were expecting this kind of game and none of us are very happy about it, quite frankly,” Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said after the game. Ferentz seemed at a loss to explain any immediate fixes that could provide relief.
Where does Iowa go from here? Nothing that their play was “unacceptable, Ferentz himself said “the cavalry’s not coming” and “we have to find a way to move forward and it is all about our response tomorrow.” Ferentz hinted that tough questions might need to be asked following the season, but for now, without question, an aura of uncertainty looms in Iowa City and 2015 seems like a decade ago.