STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Iowa called it “punt safe.” Basically, the defense stays on the field because coaches think maybe a fake could be coming.
It’s “punt safe,” at least it was for the Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten). For Penn State (3-1, 0-1), it was “punt disaster.”
Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn bulled past Penn State’s Nick Sukay, blocked Jeremy Boone’s punt and sprinted off with the ball, the momentum and everything in the Hawkeyes’ 21-10 victory Saturday night at Penn State.
The ball bounced perfectly to Clayborn and he was off for a 53-yard score that gave Iowa an 11-10 lead with 12:21 left in the game.
“It was just ‘punt safe,’ ” defensive tackle Christian Ballard said. “The tackles are supposed to wait back and watch for the fake. The ends are supposed to blitz in. He just came through so fast it was kind of surreal. It was just an awesome play.”
It was Iowa’s first blocked punt for a touchdown since Sean Considine did it against LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. It was also Clayborn’s second career blocked kick.
“It was big, man,” linebacker Jeremiha Hunter said. “Big players make big plays in big games. Adrian is one of those players who always comes through when we need it.”
It clearly was the play of the game.
After that, Iowa’s defense squeezed an interception, fumble and another interception out of Penn State and quarterback Daryll Clark, who was sacked twice and hurried and hit many more times.
Linebacker Pat Angerer’s interception and 38-yard return to Penn State’s 24 eventually turned into running back Adam Robinson’s 13-yard TD run with 8:32 left, giving Iowa an 18-10 lead. On the next series, Angerer punched the ball out of PSU running back Evan Royster and defensive tackle Karl Klug recovered at Iowa’s 18.
After an Iowa punt, Klug tipped a Clark pass that linebacker A.J. Edds intercepted. Iowa drove for Daniel Murray’s 31-yard field goal and Beaver Stadium’s “White Out” of 109,316 fans started looking a pekid.
It rained all night at State College. The turnovers poured out of Penn State in the second half.
“It’s a huge win for our team, the state of Iowa, everyone who’s involved in it,” Clayborn said. “We’re enjoying it. We’re just a little shocked. We’re glad we pulled it out.”
Pretty simple philosophy on the “punt safe.”
“I just bulled the guy back a little bit and worked the inside, stuck my hands out and, luckily, the ball was right there,” Clayborn said. “Forty pounds ago, I probably could’ve run a little faster. I’m just glad I got there.
“It was a great bounce. It was right into my hands and I just took it.”
Yeah, the bounce was great. Freakishly great.
“He fielded it like a DB (defensive back) would,” said Robinson, who led all rushers with 88 yards and a TD on 19 carries. “He picked it up like a skill guy would. He just ran and sprinted and scored. It was a great play. From that, I think our team was a different team.”
Try to keep in mind, Clayborn is 6-foot-3, 283-pound defensive who was tried at tackle in the spring. Saturday night, his play was the difference.
Flat out. No other way to put it. You can trace everything good that happend for Iowa back to Clayborn’s punt.
It ignited everything. The defense did its thing — including holding Penn State to just 160 yards total offense after the first quarter – but the offense suddenly sustained the running game, going for 61 of its 163 yards in the fourth quarter.
It ignited Iowa. It extinguished Penn State.
“It seemed like that just kind of deflated them,” Klug said. “They never did give up, but even with the crowd, you could tell it just deflated them. It was a huge momentum shifter for us.”
All that from “punt safe.”
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a play like Adrian made,” coach Kirk Ferentz said in the postgame radio interview. “That was just a thing of beauty. He never hesitated from what I can tell.
“It was just a ‘punt safe.’ We do rush one or two guys on that just to make sure they don’t run a fake. Great individual effort, that’s what that was.”
It was just “punt safe.”