IOWA CITY — For the first time maybe ever, the Hawkeyes ran onto the Kinnick Stadium field to fireworks bursting in the air.
They should’ve turned around and ran right back up the tunnel. The fireworks were the highlight. Actually, Penn State took care of the fireworks from there.
The Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) rode quarterback Matt McGloin’s two TD passes to a big halftime lead and a 38-14 victory over the Hawkeyes (4-3, 2-1) before a Kinnick crowd of 70,585 fans, many of whom let their displeasure with Iowa spill out with 5 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.
During one of Iowa’s many three-and-outs during a dreary first half that saw PSU run 50 plays for 304 yards to Iowa’s 29 for 99, the Kinnick crowd rained down boos while the Iowa offense was on the field.
The next big wave of boos came after the Nittany Lions opened the second half with a TD drive that took just 27 seconds, making it 31-0, and Iowa’s answer was cut short when quarterback James Vandenberg threw an interception right at PSU linebacker Mike Mauti. That gave the Lions first down at Iowa’s 14.
Iowa forced a fumble out of PSU running back Zach Zwinak to avoid further damage, but the Hawkeyes offense, down two offensive linemen and with running back Mark Weisman down to one good ankle, wasn’t in position to challenge PSU’s dominance.
Offensive tackle Brandon Scherff was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics with what appeared to be a broken right leg. The sophomore was put in an air cast and carted off the field. Two plays later, right guard Andrew Donnal was on crutches and headed up the tunnel with a ton of ice on his right knee.
You know all about Weisman. He suffered a sprained right ankle on the tying TD run last week at Michigan State. He didn’t start the game, yielding to true freshman Greg Garmon, but Weisman went in and didn’t have the burst a running back needs against a top-flight run defense, which is what the Lions have built themselves around.
That left Iowa with the passing game. You know all about that, too. That went like this: Vandenberg’s pass efficiency was 82.8 midway through the third quarter. Iowa’s play-action passing game was fooling no one. That tends to happen when you average 1.1 yards on 17 carries.
After the Hawkeyes fell to Central Michigan on Sept. 22, coach Kirk Ferentz started hearing questions about Vandenberg, who finished 15 of 32 for 167 yards, a TD pass, interception and a fumble.
“I’ll just say this: I’m glad he’s our quarterback, and I’m glad he’s going to be our quarterback the next eight games,” Ferentz said.
This week on his radio show: “A lot of people are worried about James, I’m not. That’s [the passing game] all going to work itself out.”
On the pregame radio show Saturday night, same deal, but it the games were six and not eight.
Don’t look for Iowa to change QB. Iowa’s offense has pneumonia. The whole thing is infected, and without Scherff and with a severely limited Weisman, this thing is going to need an IV and some bed rest.
This, as much as anything, said it wasn’t Iowa’s night. Kicker Mike Meyer entered the game with streak of 13 straight field goals. He missed 49- and 37-yarders in the first half. Penn State’s Sam Ficken, who entered the game 3-for-9 this season, connected on a 34-yarder during PSU’s 24-0 first-half blitz.
Iowa didn’t turnover the scoreboard until junior Jordan Cotton returned a kick 92 yards for a TD with 14:14 left in the game. That made it 38-7 and erased the possibility of Iowa’s first shutout at Kinnick since a 31-0 loss to Wisconsin in 1998.
Junior Nolan MacMillan missed an assignment and allowed a defensive end a free run to Vandenberg on a fourth down. It ended in a sack and Penn State took over.
But really PSU took over on the third drive when McGloin whipped a 31-yard TD pass to tight end Jesse James. The Lions ran their hurry-up “NASCAR” offense.
Their offensive line pushed Iowa’s front four around all night. Penn State finished with 215 rushing (first time Iowa has given up 200-plus rushing since 222 at Nebraska last season). McGloin threw the ball to nine receivers, finished 26 of 38 for 289 yards and two TDs.
The Lions finished with 504 yards total offense, the most against the Hawkeyes since Missouri put up 512 in the 2010 Insight Bowl. Iowa finished with 17 rushing yards, its worst output since 29 against Arizona in 2010. The 181 yards of offense was Iowa’s lowest since 171 in a win over Minnesota in 2009.
At the end of the game, there weren’t enough fans left in the Kinnick bleachers to boo the fourth-down sack. They did cheer Vandenberg’s 18-yard TD pass to wide receiver Keenan Davis, his first TD reception this season, making it 38-14 with 4:11 left.
According to HawkeyeReport.com, Iowa played host to 30 recruits Saturday night.
The fireworks were nice.