No. 17 Penn State (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) lost their last two games at home despite having a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. As Penn State took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter against No. 18 Iowa (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) in Beaver Stadium on Saturday, the Nittany Lions once again had to avoid a fourth-quarter collapse to get a win. Perhaps the third time was the charm for Penn State.
Penn State held on for a 30-24 win, holding Iowa off the scoreboard on their final two possessions of the game, including the last possession of the game as the clock expired.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley left the game for a couple of possessions in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury, but he returned in the second quarter for a quick series and was back for the remainder of the game after halftime. A 51-yard touchdown run by McSorley early in the third quarter let everyone know he was feeling just fine.
Tommy Stevens filled in for McSorley in his absence and scored a game-tying touchdown for the Nittany Lions in a messy first half immediately following a big interception return by John Reid.
It was quite a messy first half of football too. Iowa scored 17 points in the most Iowa way imaginable; two safeties as Penn State sailed snaps over the punter’s head, two field goals, and a touchdown thrown by a punter to a defensive lineman on a fake field goal. Iowa also had some luck with fumbles with three forced fumbles by Penn State all recovered by the Hawkeyes. Penn State’s defense did a good job of not letting Iowa do much on offense, but the Hawkeyes finally got tight end Noah Fant involved in the fourth quarter after never finding a way to get him open before that.
As Fant settled in and Nate Stanley got a bit more comfortable, Iowa applied pressure on Penn State with a chance to grab the lead. But confusion at the line of scrimmage with Stanley and Fant led to an interception just outside the goal line with Iowa trailing by six. Penn State was unable to wrap up the game even though Iowa ran out of timeouts on the ensuing possession, but the Hawkeyes had one more chance. It appeared Iowa could have moved into Penn State territory in the final minute, but a catch on the field was overturned by video review.
Penn State will be on the road next week against Michigan. The Wolverines have not lost since their season-opening loss at Notre Dame and Michigan is the only unbeaten team left within Big Ten play, putting them in first place in the Big Ten East. The home team has won in blowout fashion each of the last two years in this series, and Penn State will have a lot to clean up if they are going to avoid allowing that trend to continue.
Iowa falls into a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten West with Wisconsin and Purdue. All three lost on Saturday, and Northwestern now sits alone atop the Big Ten West Division after their home win against the Badgers. But Iowa still has the opportunity to seize some control of the division’s fate with their next two games. Iowa visits Purdue next week and then hosts Northwestern. If Iowa can win each of those two games and avoid a head-to-head tie with Wisconsin at the end of the season, they will play for the Big Ten championship. In short, the next few weeks in the Big Ten West should be very interesting.