Penn State coach James Franklin knows what the No. 7 Nittany Lions are getting into Saturday night at home against No. 24 Iowa.
“You guys know Iowa. This is probably going to be another one of those games where we’re going to have to grind it out,” Franklin said. “It’s going to be a four-quarter game.”
If the Nittany Lions (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) have to play the full four quarters to beat the Hawkeyes (3-0, 0-0) in University Park, Pa., it will mark the first time this year they’ve had to play a legitimate 60-minute game to win.
Penn State has won every game by at least 17 points, including last week’s 30-13 victory at Illinois in the league opener. It has outscored its opponents by a combined 131-35 margin.
However, there’s reason to believe this week might be different. The Nittany Lions did most of their damage via turnovers at Illinois, converting five into 20 points. Drew Allar supplied a turnover-free game but completed only 16 of 33 passes for 208 yards.
The Iowa defense is considerably better than anything Penn State has seen so far. While the Hawkeyes’ opposition — Utah State, Iowa State and Western Michigan — isn’t exactly Murderers’ Row, they’ve yielded just 37 points.
Linebacker Jay Higgins said Iowa is going to Penn State to win the game.
“If we just do what we’re supposed to do,” he said, “we will be all right.”
Which means that in addition to a defense that allows fewer than 300 yards per game, the Hawkeyes will need their offense to produce more than they have at times. Iowa is averaging only 302 yards per game and converting just under 35 percent on third down.
Michigan transfer Cade McNamara completed only 38 of 71 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions while shaking off an August injury. He was just 9 of 19 for 103 yards last week with two scores and two picks in a 41-10 rout of Western Michigan.
McNamara is without three key contributors this week. Tight end Luke Lachey, who underwent right ankle surgery, is likely out for the season, Ferentz said. He had 10 catches for 131 yards in 2023.
The Hawkeyes were able to compensate with a powerful rushing attack. Leshon Williams compiled 145 yards on just 12 carries, including a 53-yard run that set up their first touchdown. Kamari Moulton added 50 yards and two scores in his first game as Iowa finished with 254 ground yards, its most in two years.
“We have a lot of backs in the room,” Williams said. “We have a real stable and we are stocked in there with a lot of talent. With the next man up, anything can happen at any moment, so we have to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Rushing yardage might not come as easily. The Nittany Lions are allowing fewer than 100 yards per game. Illinois, which likes to run the ball between the tackles, managed just 62 yards and became one-dimensional on offense leading to a four-turnover day and benching of quarterback Luke Altmyer.
Penn State owns a 17-14 lead in the all-time series. The Hawkeyes have an 8-7 record in games played on the road, including a 41-21 victory in their most recent trip in 2020.
–Field Level Media