By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – For the second consecutive week, the Iowa defense kept the game close. And for the second consecutive week, the Iowa offense failed to deliver.
The Hawkeyes fell to 1-2 in Big Ten play and 4-2 overall with a 17-12 loss to No. 10 Penn State on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium.
Despite holding Penn State to under 300 total yards of offense, 177 of those came on the ground, which comes down to one thing for junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa.
“We were struggling tonight to get in our fits a little bit,” Epenesa said. “We had some communication errors. The communication across the board wasn’t as good as is usually is. We have to overcome that because that’s how it is whenever we play big games like this. The stadium is going to be into it, the fans, and it’s going to be loud, so we have to be able to get that communication across the board.”
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound Epenesa finished with seven tackles, including a sack and three quarterback hits as the defense held Penn State’s offense to just 117 passing yards.
Sophomore safety Jack Koerner led all players with a career-high 13 tackles, while junior defensive lineman Chauncey Golston added eight tackles, including a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
“For me, the power rush was working pretty well,” Epenesa said. “They slid to me a couple of times. I got chipped here and there, it wasn’t as much as it has been.”
However, the defensive side of the ball was hardly the issue.
Much like last week’s 10-3 loss at Michigan, the offense struggled to find a rhythm, accumulating just 70 yards rushing.
“I think we’re moving the ball well,” senior quarterback Nate Stanley said. “I think we’re putting ourselves in a position to score points, we just keep shooting ourselves in the foot, especially in the last couple of games. We put ourselves in a position to make plays, we just haven’t capitalized.”
A major part of Iowa’s offensive struggles was that its average starting field position was its own 17-yard line.
“Really no magic formula to it,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s a matter of executing a little bit better, doing some things that are going to be helpful. Field position could help us, too. We didn’t benefit from that very much tonight. Some of that was self-inflicted, some of it by their punter, too, special teams.
“We just have to find a way to get over the hump here a little bit.”
Injury report: Junior offensive lineman Cole Banwart did not play on Saturday due to an undisclosed injury.
Sophomore Mark Kallenberger got his first career start on Saturday in place of the injured Banwart.
The 6-foot-5, 291-pound Bettendorf native has played sparingly at multiple positions along the offensive line during his first two years at Iowa.
Senior linebacker Kristian Welch left the game in the second half with an undisclosed injury.
Ferentz indicated after the game that he did not expect it to be a recurring issue for Welch.
Flyover: Two University of Iowa graduates and a Burlington native flew three F-35 fighter jets over Kinnick Stadium at the conclusion of the national anthem on Saturday.
Orange Bowl memories: Ricky Stanzi wasn’t the only former Hawkeye to be honored at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
Several of Stanzi’s former teammates joined him during a timeout in the second quarter to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their 24-14 victory over Georgia Tech in the 2010 Orange Bowl to cap off an 11-2 season.
Stanley’s Movin’ Up: Stanley continues to move up the career passing chart at Iowa.
His 286 yards on Saturday raised his career total to 6,862, passing Matt Rodgers for fifth in school history.
Stanley’s lone touchdown pass to junior receiver Brandon Smith in the fourth quarter tied him with Drew Tate for second all-time in program history. He is 13 short of tying Chuck Long’s school record.