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Penn State Survives Kinnick Stadium Night Magic with Last-Second 21-19 Win Over Iowa

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By John Patchett (

The fourth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions roared into Kinnick Stadium Saturday evening with an quick-strike, big-play Offense on a 10-game streak of scoring 30 or more points plus a Defense that had allowed only 14 points all season. It took the Nitts the game’s entire 60 minutes to escape with a 21-19 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes.

PSU scored on the final drive of the game as the clock ticked to 00:00 – on a seven yard quick slant touchdown pass from star Quarterback Trace McSorley to Wide Receiver Juwan Johnson – to pull out the 21-19 victory. That drive took the all of the final 1:42 that was left on the clock after the Hawkeyes scored twice in the Fourth Quarter to open a 19-15 lead and send the boisterous Kinnick Crowd into a frenzy.

Iowa’s Defense was stellar all night in a classic bend but don’t break performance. PSU has been known for its “chunk” plays all season but the Hawkeyes kept them in check for the most part, allowing just two touchdowns. While the lop-sided stats don’t show it – PSU had 579 yards of total offense – nevertheless it was a defensive performance that kept the Hawks in the game throughout the evening. Josey Jewell was Iowa’s leading tackler with 16 including three TFL and one interception. New Free Safety Starter Amani Hooker was second with 13 tackles (11 solo). DE Anthony Nelson had 2.5 of Iowa’s four sacks. True Freshman DE A.J. Epenesa continue to demonstrate that he is a force to be reckoned with.

Penn State’s NFL-bound star Running Back Saquon Barkley was – well – stellar, time and again – as was McSorley. Barkley finished with rushed for 211 yards on 28 carries. He caught 12 passes for 94 yards. His 305 yards accounted for 53% of PSU’s entire total offense. He also had 53 yards on kick returns, giving him 358 all-purpose yards. McSorley proved his dual-threat creds: 31-48-1 passing for 284 yards and one touchdown and was the Nitts second-leading rusher with 61 yards on 17 carries – he was sacked four times by Iowa.

Iowa’s Offense struggled nearly the entire First Half but improbably opened 7-5 Halftime lead on a late Josey Jewell pick and 33 yard return, followed by a 21 yard TD pass from Nate Stanley to Nick Easley in the final :06. At that point in the game the Nittany Lions had 219 yards of offense to Iowa’s paltry 54. Time of possession was 19:30 to 10:30. And so on and so forth. Penn State’s Defense was aggressive the entire game, blitzing nearly half the time. Running Back Akrum Wadley had zero yards rushing on 10 carries through the first two quarters. Stanley was just 5-12-0 for 48 yards passing. Yet Iowa clawed its way to that narrow lead. Iowa also gave up a safety on a pitch-sweep to Wadley in the midway through the Second Quarter.

Iowa’s Offense was more productive in the Second Half and finished with 273 yards of total offense. Stanley was 13-22-0, passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns. The most spectacular play for the Hawkeyes came early in the Fourth Quarter when Stanley hit Wadley for a 70 yard catch and run TD pass that was nothing short of phenomenal. Iowa then took the lead on another great play by Wadley: a 35 yard touchdown run with just 1:42 left on the clock. Wadley finished the night with 80 yards rushing and 75 yards receiving. He also fumbled early in the Third Quarter – a turnover that Penn State turned into seven points.

Nate Stanley now has 12 TD passes through his first four games as Iowa’s starting quarterback – and he has thrown just one interception.

The Hawkeyes failed to convert on two two-point tries after their Second Half touchdowns. PK Miguel Recinos had his only field goal attempt blocked early in the Fourth Quarter. Penn State’s PK Tyler Davis made two field goals, missed one, and had one blocked.

Iowa (3-1, 0-1) have its first Big Ten road game of the season, traveling to Michigan State (2-1, 0-0) next Saturday afternoon. The Spartans are coming off a 38-18 pounding from Notre Dame in East Lansing. That game is set for a 3 PM kick-off on Fox. Penn State improves to 4-0, 1-0, and returns to Happy Valley to host Indiana.

Post-Game Notes – From Iowa Athletic Communications

#4 Penn State (4-0, 1-0) defeated Iowa (3-1, 0-1), 21-19, at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday night.


LB Josey Jewell had game-high 16 tackles, matching his career high. Jewell had a career-best three tackles-for-loss and added two pass breakups and one interception. The interception was the fifth of his career. Jewell has 345 career tackles, 12th in program history. He passed George Davis (330), Bobby Diaco (334), Melvin Foster (337), and Aaron Kampman (342) in tonight’s game.

DE Anthony Nelson tied his career-high with 2.5 sacks (7 yards).

DB Amani Hooker had 13 tackles in his first career start. DB Manny Rugamba had a career high nine tackles.

QB Nate Stanley threw two touchdowns today. He has thrown 12 touchdowns since being intercepted on his third pass attempt of the season.  

QB Nate Stanley’s 70-yard touchdown pass to RB Akrum Wadley was the longest passing and receiving plays of their respective careers. 

RB Akrum Wadley (19 carries, 80 yards) moved has 363 career carries for 2,101 yards. He passed Jordan Canzeri (2,073) for 13th all-time.  Wadley was Iowa’s leading rusher and receiver today (4 receptions, 75 yards). He scored two touchdowns tonight to move into 18th place in career scoring (156).

WR Matt VandeBerg had two receptions for 27 yards. He has at least one reception on 23 consecutive games played. He has 116 career receptions, 13th all-time.

WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s 29-yard reception in the third quarter was a career long.

RB Ivory Kelly-Martin had his first career reception (6 yards).

DE A.J. Epenesa forced a fumble in the third quarter, the first of his career. Epenesa also had a sack (5 yards).

P Colton Rastetter punted seven times for 288 yards (41.1). He had two punts of 50-plus yards, including a career long 53 yarder. 


Iowa ran one play in Penn State territory in the first half (21-yard touchdown reception by WR Nick Easley). Iowa had 219 yards of offense in the second half. Iowa had 54 yards of offense in the first half. 

Iowa had three scoring drives today, all touchdowns. The three drives combined for seven plays in  just 2:36.

The Iowa defense was on the field for 19:30 in the first half, and allowed just three points. It was the first time this season Penn State did not score a touchdown in the first half. Penn State held a 39:39-20:21 advantage in time of possession. Iowa entered the game averaging 35:35 in TOP, sixth in the country.

Iowa had won five straight Big Ten openers. Before tonight, its last conference opening loss was in 2011 at Penn State (13-3).

Iowa has hosted 15 night games in Kinnick Stadium’s history, holding a 10-5 record in those contests.  The Hawkeyes had won four straight night games in Kinnick Stadium prior to tonight.

Prior to tonight, Iowa had won three straight games at home against top five opponents

2008 24-23 vs. #3 Penn State

2010 37-6 vs. #5 Michigan State

2016 14-13 vs. #2 Michigan

Iowa surrendered a safety for the first time since 2008. The Hawkeyes had a field goal blocked, their first since 2011.

Penn State won the toss and elected to receive. The Hawkeyes have played 231 games under head coach Kirk Ferentz. Iowa has opened the game on offense 179 times (109-70). The Hawkeyes have opened the game on defense 52 times (29-23).

Instant replay was used three times today:

1)      Barkley 36-yard rush (ruled out of bounds, 25 yard gain)

2)      Barkley rushing touchdown (call was confirmed)

3)      Penn State interception (call was overruled)


The Hawkeyes play at Michigan State on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 3 P.M. in East Lansing, Michigan. The game will be televised on FOX.

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