BY THE NUMBERS
2 – Missed field goals by Mike Meyer, one more than in the previous six games
2 – Starting Iowa offensive linemen injured
4-2 – Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz’s home record against Penn State
215 – Rushing yards by Penn State
20 – Rushing yards by Iowa
F — That was a dead body falling down the stairs. For three hours.
– Marc Morehouse
F — Lousy.
– Mike Hlas
F — That was Lickliter-esque.
– Scott Dochterman
IN FAVOR OF EXECUTION, MOSTLY
Iowa players and coaches were reluctant to identify any specific problems after the loss. Here’s a sample:
Iowa wide receiver Keenan Davis: “They just came out harder than us. … We just got to come out and play harder. We all know the system.”
Iowa running back Mark Weisman: “We’re not consistent. We haven’t been consistent, and that’s what we work towards.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz: “We definitely struggled tonight. We didn’t block them well, execute well, run or pass. We couldn’t get anything going tonight, at all, period.”
Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg: “We didn’t execute in any phase of offense. We didn’t throw it well, we didn’t catch it well, we didn’t run it well. We didn’t block well. we didn’t anything you have to do to win, and we’ve got to get it cleaned up.”
Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey: “They just wanted it more and they executed.”
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
It was a complete breakdown on both offense and defense for Iowa. The Hawkeyes ran for 20 yards on 23 attempts, their worst rushing output since 2005, when the Hawkeyes rushed for negative-9 yards at Ohio State. Vandenberg completed 17-of-36 attempts for 189 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown.
Iowa converted just 2-of-12 on third down and held the ball for 21:52.
When asked if he had an answer for the offensive woes, Vandenberg replied, “I don’t know. If I knew that answer, we would have scored 50 tonight.”
Ferentz thinks the offense has made progress from the team’s first two games.
“I think the first two games we struggled,” Ferentz said. “I think after that, we started making some real progress and then we played a very good defensive football team last week and played a real good defensive team tonight.”
Penn State rushed for 215 yards on 52 carries. The Nittany Lions ran 90 plays, held the ball for 38:08 and converted 8-of-17 third-down opportunities.
“When they’re marching up the field, your mind is always wondering what is the best card to stop the offense,” Kirksey said. “Just simple things like that. Yeah, it was frustrating.”
Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin completed 26-of-38 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns.
“We didn’t underestimate him,” Kirksey said. “We just didn’t execute it right. They outplayed us. We tip our hat to Penn State. It’s a great team.”
Vandenberg and fellow team captain, junior linebacker James Morris, said the team’s performance reflects upon their leadership and they take their role seriously.
“You’re not really a leader if you have to tell guys all the time, right?” Morris said. “What makes people a leader is that they can kind of watch you and then know that about you. Another part of being a leader is that if something needs to be said, you say it. I would say we have great leadership right now. What we don’t have is great consistency. That’s what we need and the leaders can help us get there.”
“The offense is a reflection on me and the other 10 guys,” Vandenberg said. “Definitely it’s personal.”
Iowa lost two starting offensive linemen in three plays in the first quarter. On first down, left tackle Brandon Scherff injured his right lower leg and was carted off the field. Two plays later, right guard Andrew Donnal was injured. Neither players returned.
“I think certainly Brandon Scherff, that’s a lower leg injury and I think we’ll lose him for the season, which is really a shame for him,” Ferentz said. “He’s worked extremely hard.
“Andrew Donnal, we’ll know more here in a couple days. They are going to check him tomorrow, Monday, and we’ll know a little bit more there.”
Nolan MacMillan stepped in for Scherff at left tackle, while Austin Blythe moved back to right guard.
“We talk about next man in all the time and those guys step in and did a nice job,” Vandenberg said. “Unfortunate circumstances but you’ve got to roll with the punches.”
Vandenberg has started the last 20 games at Iowa, and Ferentz showed no inkling of making a change now despite a sputtering offense. In fact, Ferentz had no plans to remove Vandenberg for red-shirt freshman Jake Ruddock even when the game was clearly out of hand.
“I thought about it, but at that point we just felt like, let the starters finish the game,” Ferentz said.
“Right now, James is our quarterback.”
Junior receiver Jordan Cotton returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the second straight week, but this one counted.
Cotton scored on a 92-yard return early in the fourth quarter to ensure the Hawkeyes would not be shut out. Last week at Michigan State, Cotton’s touchdown return was called back because of an illegal block in the back.
“Just a big hole,” Cotton said. “It was blocked really well. I just saw a seam and I took it.”
DAVIS REACHES MILESTONE
Davis, a senior from Cedar Rapids, caught four passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. He now has 101 catches for 1,355 yards in his career.
It was the worst home loss for Iowa since 2000, when the Hawkeyes lost 31-7 to Penn State. It’s also the first time since 2006 Iowa has lost three home games. Several times the fans booed Iowa’s players and coaches for lack of offensive execution in crucial situations.
“They’re well deserved,” Vandenberg said. “We scored seven offensive points. We’ve got to do a lot better than that.”
Iowa (4-3, 2-1) plays at Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) next Saturday. The Hawkeyes have lost two of their last three games at Ryan Field, including a 21-17 heartbreaker in 2010 that ended Iowa’s hopes of sharing the Big Ten title.