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Kinnick magic…almost

Hawk Talk
Quarterback Nathan Stanley (4) dives ahead as the Hawkeye offense tries to get out of its own end zone during Iowa’s 21-19 loss to Penn State Saturday, Sept. 16, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (photos by Don Lund)

The Iowa-Penn State game had the makings of another great comeback.
The Hawks were trailing 15-13 with 2:42 left.
Iowa drove to the Nittany Lions’ 35 and Akrum Wadley made his second great play of the night, a 35-yard sweep around left end that he high-stepped once at the 3 into the end zone.
This was not a celebration high-step, a Penn State defender was on Akrum’s heels and he had to make that move to avoid being tackled.
Akrum immediately gave the ball to the referee and didn’t get flagged.
The only problem… too much time left; 1:42 to be exact.
The Lions drove downfield, faced a fourth and 7 with four seconds left.
The winning touchdown pass went inches over the outstretched hands of Amani Hooker and fourth-ranked Penn State defeated Iowa 21-19 Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
Game, set… match.
If you look at the stats, there is no way Iowa should have been in the in the game in the first place.
In the first half alone, Penn State had 97 yards rushing, Iowa 6.
State had 122 yards passing, Iowa 48.
State ran 47 plays, Iowa 24.
State had the ball for 19:30, Iowa 10:30.
For the game, State ran 99 plays, Iowa 45.
You want to know what the craziest stat was?
Iowa led at halftime, 7-5!
I didn’t think the Hawkeyes would get embarrassed like they did last year, getting beat 41-14, but I did think they would check Heisman candidate Saquon Barkley a little better.
Boy, was I wrong.
Iowa made Saquon look like a combination of Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders.
Last year, Saquon had 167 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Saturday at Kinnick Stadium he racked up 358 yards (a Penn State record) with 211 on the ground, 94 yards receiving and 53 on kickoff returns.
Saquon made Iowa miss (like Barry Sanders did); he also jumped over (like Gale Sayers) and ran over (like Jim Brown) the Hawkeye defenders.
The good news is Saquon will probably go pro after this season even though he is only a junior.
“We’re disappointed with the loss,” said Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz. “It’s going to hurt for a while, but we’ll move on.”
I’m starting with the defense this week, even though they gave up 579 total yards.
Iowa defense
The Hawks did give up a lot of total yards, but they held Penn State to 21 points.
They came in averaging 47 points per game.
Last year at State College, Iowa gave up 599 yards, the second-most in the Kirk Ferentz era.
Penn State had the ball for 35 minutes in last year’s loss.
Saturday the Lions had the ball for 39 minutes.
That’s why it’s so amazing the Hawkeyes held them to 21 points.
You’ve got to give it up for Josey Jewell.
The senior linebacker from Decorah intercepted a pass right before half to set up Iowa’s first score.
Josey also had 16 tackles, three tackles for a loss and two pass breakups.
Jewell was named Big Ten Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week.
Amani Hooker had 13 tackles and one pass breakup. If he had one more pass breakup, Iowa would have won the game.
Anthony Nelson had two sacks and a blocked field goal.
True freshman A. J. Epenesa keeps getting more snaps and came up with a big sack and a forced fumble.
The defense had five other players with tackles for loss including Ben Niemann, Parker Hesse, Sam Brinks and Cedric Lattimore.

Iowa offense

One of the fun things about watching Hawkeye football the last few years is watching Akrum Wadley get the ball in space and make defenders look helpless.
I thought the 46-yard catch and run Akrum made against Iowa State for a touchdown was one of the greatest plays I have ever seen a Hawkeye make.
I might have to amend that as the 70-yard catch and run for a touchdown Saturday was a thing of beauty.
The Lions were blitzing, Nate Stanley threw a perfect pass that Akrum caught over his shoulder and when he was in the clear, magic was happening.
Akrum cut to the middle of the field and you could see him looking around, setting up his blocks and Lion defenders.
When Akrum got to the 5, he put both hands on the ball and leaped into the end zone with two Penn State defenders on his back.
Akrum had zero yards rushing in the first half. He finished with 80 yards on the ground, 75 yards in the air and two scores.
Nate Stanley had a decent night going 13-22, 191 yards and two touchdown passes.
Nate didn’t get sacked, had no interceptions and threw perfect touch passes to Nick Easley and Akrum for scores.
Both were thrown over Penn State defenders.
How about Nick’s touchdown catch right before half?
Nick, who is a walk-on from junior college, leads the team with 18 receptions and three touchdowns.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette made the best catch of the night, going up in traffic and pulling down a 28-yard reception.
Penn State was keying on Iowa’s tight ends and Noah Fant was the only tight end to catch a pass.

special teams

The Hawks got a field goal blocked and blocked one so that’s a wash.
Colten Rastetter averaged 41.1 on seven punts which is better.
Penn State only returned one punt for 4 yards.
Miguel Recinos made another field goal and was 2-2 in extra points.
Miguel had five kickoffs, one touchback and four returned for an 18.2 average which is good.
Ivory Kelly-Martin averaged 30 yards on three kickoff returns… really good.
“Our guys fought, it’s as simple as that,” said coach Ferentz. “That’s the beautiful thing about football. There’s a lot of ways to win football games. Which means we have to come up with plays on special teams, offense and defense. We came up with some big plays at critical times, some good responses, but just came up a little short, unfortunately.”

The key to this game is, don’t let Penn State beat you twice.
In other words, the Hawks have to flush this one and get ready to take on Michigan State.
Kirk Ferentz has the 24-hour rule, win or lose.
The Spartans are 3-point favorites over the Hawkeyes at home after losing to Notre Dame, 38-18.
State is 2-1 after opening with wins over Bowling Green and Western Michigan.
Iowa’s leadership has to step up and with Josey Jewell and Matt VandeBerg leading the way, I’m confident they will.