Penn State out-gained the Hawkeyes 579 yards to 273. They had 29 first downs compared to 11 for Iowa. 99 offensive plays for the guys in white; only 45 for the black and gold that is not the Steelers. The Lions owned the ball with nearly forty minutes of possession. Iowa did not register a first down until the final play of the first quarter.
Yet, with a minute and 42 seconds left in the game, the number four ranked team in the country found itself trailing the Hawks 19-15. They also trailed at the half as Iowa turned a late interception into points on a big pass play.
How could this happen?
All the usual suspects were there. Turn-overs. Pass after pass batted down. Missed and blocked field goals. A terrific effort by the Iowa defense.
Despite all it’s offensive stats, PSU managed only a field goal in the first half. And a safety by the defense, which played a great game all but for a couple of plays.
It all brought back shades of 2008. Penn State, ranked third in the nation, traveled to Iowa City to play an unranked Hawkeye team. In the closing minutes of that game, Iowa took possession, got some help from a phantom pass interference flag, and ended up kicking a field goal as time expired to beat Penn State.
It was like de ja blue all over again.
But the Hawkeyes forgot one thing this time. 1:42 on the clock.
The ensuing kick-off was returned to the twenty. The Lions were 80 yards away from keeping their hopes of an undefeated season and possibly another Big Ten Title intact.
They had moved the ball all night. 579 yards of offense! Saquon Barkley alone had 358 all-purpose yards (a Penn State school record.) But most of that effort resulted in no points.
Trace McSorley, hurried at times, sacked, and somewhat inconsistent, then led this team on an 80 yard drive, highlighted by two fourth down conversions and an absolutely amazing pass through traffic that put the Lions up by two with no time left on the clock.
The Hawkeye fans were stunned. (I know the feeling. I felt it at the end of the Rose Bowl last season when I was sure we had pulled that one out.)
The DRIVE was reminiscent of “the drive” in 1994, when Kerry Collins led his team on a 95 yard drive, on the road, against the Illini defense, which that year was ranked in the top five in the country. It preserved what would ultimately be an undefeated season, but that drive did not end the game, and our defense still had to preserve the victory.
I don’t remember PSU ever winning on the final play from scrimmage like that–maybe on a field goal as time expired, or a defensive play–but not a Mario Manningham kind of play.
Yeah, Iowa. I remember that game too. Wasn’t against you, but I know your pain.
It remains to be seen if the Lions can win out this year. But if they do, I think we will all look back on this game–and this play–as a significant moment in PSU history.
While the stars seemed aligned against us most of the night, a lot of things suddenly came together at the right time. On the previous play, McSorley threw an incompletion. It didn’t look like Hamilton would have been able to score on that play. We did have a timeout, but had he tried to break free, or they stood him up, time could have slipped away before a time out could have been called.
Iowa tried for two points after touchdowns twice and failed. The margin of victory was two points. Both teams had field goal problems. Had Iowa not scored a touchdown, but ran more clock off and kicked a field goal, the game might have been beyond our reach.
In the end, the Lions made the plays they needed to make, and are still ranked #4 with Indiana up ahead.