Was this one of the 10 best football games in Iowa's last 10 years? No. But for atmosphere and importance, I suggest it has a rightful place at the table.
The Hawkeyes went from a team that was 3-0 and still had people questioning its fiber from its season-opening 17-16 frightfest of a win over Northern Iowa to someone to be taken seriously.
They were gobbled up in the first half by fifth-ranked Penn State's defense, but dominated the whole game after that in roaring to a 21-10 win that sent most of the crowd of 109,319 home as sad as it was wet.
You all know the play. Adrian Clayborn, monster, blocked a punt, scooped up the ball, and rumbled (is there a better word for this play than "rumbled?") 53 yards for the touchdown that changed two teams' fortunes for the night and, truly, the season.
Iowa's offense got the job done nicely in the fourth quarter, while the Nittany Lions ended up with four turnovers and a lot of frustration. Iowa's running game was Penn State-ish in its efficiency. And at the home of Linebacker U., Iowa's linebackers were brilliant. Pat Angerer had 14 tackles, Jeremiah Hunter 12. And A.J. Edds had an interception.
Here are excerpts from my column from that game:
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- America, you just met the Iowa Hawkeyes.
They didn't blind you with their offensive polish. Maybe they didn't knock you out at all. But they sure did a number on Penn State, and wow, did they ever enhance their possibilities of doing big things this season.
The defense Iowa laid on fifth-ranked Penn State before a whiteout, 109,000-fan crowd in Beaver Stadium was far nastier than the daylong, game-long rain, and as sturdy as Mount Nittany.
The 21-10 win the Hawkeyes posted featured few of the style points Kirk Ferentz likes to jokingly mention. But this is football, not Vogue, and Iowa's doing the football thing pretty well these days.
It was so fitting that Adrian Clayborn's blocked punt for a touchdown return produced the points that shot Iowa to the front of the Big Ten class and up the national ladder.
This was a defensive masterpiece for the Hawkeyes, a display of raw, brute strength and Johnny-on-the-spot athleticism in a game-long rain. After Penn State caught Iowa's 'D' unalert on its first offensive play of the game, a 79-yard pass for a TD, Hawkeye defenders slammed the door on PSU quarterback Daryll Clark's face time after time after time.
When the hounded Clark ceded to terrific Lions punter Jeremy Boone early in the fourth quarter, Clayborn blasted through the line at warp-speed, cut down the punt, calmly scooped it up, and easily ran it home for Iowa's first lead of the night.
Clayborn had teamed with defensive line partner Christian Ballard to hound Clark into an incompletion on the previous play. Clayborn, folks, is mighty good. ...
It was a wet, wild and wonderful night for an Iowa squad that now has the potential to have a genuinely special season. If you're one of the seven Big Ten teams left on the Hawkeyes' schedule, how do you feel about contending with that defense, and that kind of poise?
Happy Valley? Not this time, and it usually isn't when a Ferentz-coached team comes here.The happiest valleys in the country last night were between Council Bluffs and Clinton.