By: C.J. Doon
In Bill O’Brien’s post-game press conference, following Penn State’s 38-14 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes, David Jones of The Patriot-News asked the first-year head coach why his team hasn’t produced a “down, flat week” yet that he felt is “inevitable” during every Penn State football season.
“What is there to be flat about?” O’Brien said, just a few moments later. “You’re playing college football. You’re playing in front of 80,000 people here at Kinnick Stadium, 100,000 people at Penn State. What in the world would there ever be [a reason] to be flat about?”
“They know at the end of the day there’s only five games left,” O’Brien said, referring to the NCAA sanctions that prevents Penn State from playing in a bowl game for the next four years. “I believe these guys will be energized and ready to play…I believe that when you play football at Penn State, you have a hell of a lot to play for.”
The Nittany Lions showed some of that energy from the opening kickoff Saturday night in Iowa City, jumping out to a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Quarterback Matt McGloin connected with tight end Jesse James for a 31-yard touchdown on Penn State’s second possession, and followed with an 8-yard touchdown pass to leading receiver Allen Robinson on the very next drive to silence the raucous crowd of 70,585. The Lions have now outscored their opponents 66-0 in the first quarter, and 110-23 in the first half.
The Hawkeyes’ offense was silenced by the Lions’ defense, holding Iowa to 20 yards rushing and 209 yards of total offense. To the delight of the hometown crowd, Iowa’s leading rusher, Mike Weisman, played with an ankle injury he sustained last week against Michigan State, but was ineffective, rushing for nine yards on only five carries. Linebacker Michael Mauti and defensive tackle Jordan Hill made life difficult for Iowa’s quarterback James Vandenberg, sacking the junior twice, while Mauti and fellow linebacker Mike Hull each recorded an interception for the Lions’ defense.
Penn State gashed Iowa’s front seven, running an up-tempo, no-huddle offense nicknamed “NASCAR” by the players and coaches. The fast-paced offense clicked with sophomore running back Bill Belton, who ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns on the night. It was a breakout performance for the second-year player, and marked the first 100-yard rushing performance of his young career.
“We came out here and played aggressive, and the offensive line did a great job today,” Belton said after the game. “All the credit goes to them. We got a team win today, and it was definitely big.”
Penn State celebrated their third-straight victory with fans after the game, but many players stressed the importance of getting back to work on Monday to prepare for the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes.
“We’ll definitely enjoy this one for 24-hours, and then certainly get back to work on Monday,” senior offensive lineman Mike Farrell said. “But things are good, and we want to keep this momentum going.”
Penn State (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) takes on the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at Beaver Stadium this Saturday, October 27th. The game is set for a 5:30 PM kickoff on ESPN, and will be the one and only “Whiteout” of the season, a tradition that started in 2004, in which all fans in attendance wear white to the game. Penn State is looking to recreate some of the magic of the 2005 “Whiteout” game, where the Nittany Lions defeated the #6 Buckeyes in front of 109,839 screaming fans.