Nate Stanley

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No. 20 Iowa hands No. 8 Minnesota first loss of the season

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It has been said hopes and dreams can go to Kinnick Stadium and never walk out. While that may be a bit of an overstatement for this particular situation, Kinnick Stadium did put bruise up another Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff hopeful’s season. No. 20 Iowa (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) was the first team to hand No. 8 Minnesota (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) a loss this season with a 23-19 victory Saturday in Iowa City.

Iowa led Minnesota 20-6 at halftime but managed just one field goal in the fourth quarter to extend its lead to 10 points midway through the quarter. The field goal by Keith Duncan came at the end of a 10-play drive that killed off a little more than four minutes of precious game time. Minnesota’s chance to make things a one-possession game on the ensuing drive looked good when Rodney Smith crossed the goal line late in the fourth quarter, but a missed extra-point attempt by Brock Walker kept things just out of reach for the Gophers.

It wasn’t for lack of effort, however. Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan passed for 368 yards and a touchdown, with Tyler Johnson hauling in nine passes for 170 yards. Rashod Bateman had six catches for 98 yards. Iowa’s Nate Stanley passed for 173 yards and two touchdowns in the win. AJ Epenesa led a ferocious defensive attack for Iowa that gave up some plays in the second half but slammed the door shut on the Gophers when it mattered the most. Epenesa had a game that reminded those watching just why he is one of the top defensive linemen in the nation.

In the grand scheme of things, Minnesota still has a path to its first Big Ten championship game. And if Minnesota does reach the championship game with just one loss, a victory in the conference championship game (against Ohio State or Penn State) would make for a strong case at the end of the season worth discussing for the College Football Playoff. But for now, PJ Fleck and his program must deal with rebounding after their first loss since Nov. 17, 2018 (Northwestern, 24-14).

Iowa will be home again next week to face Illinois. The Illini have already clinched bowl eligibility, so next week’s game could be more about jockeying for bowl position in the Big Ten bowl pool with neither team in the running for the division. Minnesota will play at Northwestern next week for a great opportunity for a rebound win. The Wildcats have won just two games all season, with their second coming earlier in the day with a blowout of UMass.

Minnesota still owns a one-game lead in the division ahead of Wisconsin. It is possible the division championship will be on the line in the regular-season finale between Minnesota and Wisconsin, a game won by the Gophers last season.

No. 8 Minnesota in trouble, down 20-6 at No. 20 Iowa

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We could have another Kinnick Stadium upset on our hands. No. 8 Minnesota is trailing No. 20 Iowa 20-6 at halftime as they try to keep a two-game advantage in the Big Ten West standings.

Nate Stanley has completed eight of his 10 passes with two touchdowns to give the Hawkeyes their lead. Iowa wasted little time getting in front by scoring a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. Stanley completed the first of his two touchdown passes to Nico Ragaini from 21 yards out for the early 6-0 lead. For some reason, Iowa then imploded on the extra point attempt and was unable to scramble for a two-point try. Iowa scored a second touchdown on their next possession, immediately after Minnesota missed on a field goal attempt. Tyler Goodson ran 10 yards for a 13-0 lead.

After Minnesota got on the board with a field goal, Iowa was ready for a response with a 69-yard touchdown drive. Stanley ended the drive with a touchdown pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette from five yards. Minnesota had a 1st & Goal in the final minute of the half but had to settle for a field goal.

With Wisconsin winning earlier today, Minnesota needs to leave Iowa with a win to own a two-game lead in the division and have a chance to wrap up the division next week before having to face the Badgers in the last game of the regular season.

No. 10 Penn State swarms No. 17 Iowa, 17-12, to remain undefeated

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A night game in Kinnick stadium is not supposed to be easy for visitors, but No. 10 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) won their second consecutive night game in Iowa City in three years Saturday night. In a defensive battle, Sean Clifford and a strong display by the Penn State defense held off No. 17 Iowa (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) to remain undefeated. The game was put out of reach with a 17-6 score when Noah Cain took a pitch to the left side of the field for a touchdown. Penn State went on to win 17-12.

This was a tough defensive battle form the start. Clifford had a rough start to the game before he settled in during the second quarter. A.J. Epenesa of Iowa was in his face for much of the night, but the Nittany Lions protected the ball well and went 60 minutes without a turnover. Iowa, on the other hand, could not do the same in a game where possessions came at a premium.

Penn State appeared to take advantage of the first turnover of the game when Clifford connected with tight end Pat Freiermuth for a touchdown over the middle of the Hawkeyes defense late in the third quarter. But a video replay review ultimately overturned the call on the field and marked the ball shy of the end zone. Penn State would still manage to tack on a field goal, but the decision by the replay officials seemed to puzzle many watching the game.

According to David Jones of The Patriot News, the official word in the press box regarding the video replay ruling was it was a judgment call.

Penn State later picked off Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, which setup Cain to give Penn State some much-needed breathing room in the fourth quarter. After not throwing an interception in Iowa’s first four games of the season, Stanley has now thrown four in the last two games as Iowa’s offense continues to struggle against good defenses. They’ll have some time to figure that out before a road trip to Wisconsin in what should be a big game in the Big Ten West, although Iowa is already two games behind the Badgers in the loss column.

Stanley did give Iowa some late life though when he fumbled a snap and recovered for a first down and then tossed a deep ball to Brandon Smith for a remarkable touchdown catch (which was upheld by video review).

Penn State was able to run the clock out after recovering Iowa’s onside kick attempt. Cain picked up some big yardage in crucial situations to help milk the clock as he climbed over 100 rushing yards against a stingy Iowa defense. And in doing so, Penn State secured the first road win against a ranked opponent in the career of James Franklin. Franklin was 0-11 on the road against ranked teams in his career dating back to his time at Vanderbilt, and Penn State was 0-6 in those situations under their head coach.

Penn State will return home for what could be another tough defensive battle. The Nittany Lions host Michigan next weekend in a primetime showdown in front of a whiteout crowd. the game will carry a lot of weight in the Big Ten East as Michigan has already suffered one conference loss and Ohio State is leading the pace in the Big Ten. Iowa will stay home next week for their own division matchup with Purdue.

Penn State and Iowa locked in Big Ten defensive battle, Nittany Lions up 7-6 at half

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What was billed as a defensive battle has lived up to expectations. No. 10 Penn State holds a 7-3 lead on No. 17 Iowa at halftime in Kinnick Stadium in a game that just might be a race to 20 points. Or maybe 14. Or 10?

Iowa’s defense came out feisty and gave young starting Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford a rough welcome to a stripe-out atmosphere in Kinnick stadium. Clifford missed on his first five pass attempts before getting in a bit of a rhythm in the second quarter. Clifford completed four of six passes on a 15-play drive that covered 85 yards. The fourth and final pass was a pass to KJ Hamler, who zipped down the right sideline and leaped over a handful of players to cross the goal line. Video replay was used to uphold the call on the field since Hamler actually fell out of bounds. He had crossed the goal line before landing, which is why the call was upheld.

Iowa struck first in the first quarter by scoring the first points given up in the first quarter by Penn State this season. It looked as though Iowa might only get the lone field goal in the first half, but a huge third-down completion from Nate Stanley to Ihmir Smith-Marsette for 36 yards on 3rd-and-10 in the final minute of the half led to a second field goal despite having the ball at the Penn State four-yard line with time to spare.

It’s still a game up for grabs and the defenses are the story in Iowa City. But whoever scores the next touchdown might put this game out of reach.

Defense leads the way as No. 19 Michigan tops No. 14 Iowa, 10-3

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No. 19 Michigan (4-1, 2-1 Big Ten) may still not have the offense where it wants it, but a 10-3 victory over No. 14 Iowa (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) was a reminder the Wolverines can get by on their defense if needed. The Wolverines remained undefeated at home and improved to 2-1 in Big Ten play since their lopsided loss at Wisconsin. But the search for the offense will continue in Ann Arbor.

Iowa’s biggest shortcoming was lacking the ability to finish off drives. Iowa had to settle for a field goal despite having a 1st and Goal in the second quarter. The Hawkeyes also punted in Michigan territory twice and Nate Stanley was intercepted twice on the Michigan side of the field. Stanley, who hadn’t thrown an interception all season, was intercepted three times by the Wolverines. Down 10-3 late in the fourth quarter, Iowa’s most promising drive of the second half imploded in spectacular fashion with a pair of holding penalties starting from the Michigan 25-yard line, a false start penalty and a big sack for a loss on third down to bring up a 4th and 36 from the Iowa 49-yard line.

Neither team managed to get 300 yards of offense, which may have been expected given the styles of both teams. But four Iowa turnovers were difficult to overcome in a game where every possession was critical. Michigan jumped on an early Iowa turnover at the start of the game to take a quick 3-0 lead and got out of the first quarter with all of their points for the day. Fortunately for the Wolverines, it was more than enough to get the win.

Michigan spread the ball around on the field with six different players adding to the rushing total for the home team. Shea Patterson had a tough day throwing the football though, completing 14 of 26 passes for 147 yards with an interception.

Iowa returns home next week for a primetime showdown with No. 12 Penn State. Michigan will be on the road to face Illinois before getting their crack at the Nittany Lions in two weeks in Happy Valley.