There was the Adrian Clayborn punt block and touchdown scramble. There was Daniel Murray’s game-winning field goal. And yes, there was the 6-4 game that football historians will surely puzzle over years from now.
But there were a number of other ways Penn State lost to Iowa during the last nine games in the series.
“They’ve just executed in different phases of the games and we haven’t,” Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still said.
Since a comfortable 31-7 win in Iowa City in 1999, the Hawkeyes (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten), who visit the Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-0) at 3:30 p.m. today in Beaver Stadium, have mastered Joe Paterno’s team like no other conference foe has. Iowa has won eight of the last nine meetings, five by a touchdown or less.
Penn State ended the five-game drought with a 27-7 win in Beaver Stadium in 2007, but Iowa responded by handing the Nittany Lions three of the most brutal losses in the series, a 24-23 win in Kinnick Stadium in 2008 that was Penn State’s only loss of the regular season, a 21-10 win here in 2009 that quieted a massive primetime crowd and last season’s 24-3 romp in Kinnick.
The current Nittany Lions did their best to keep their gazes forward and stick to their routines this week, though it wasn’t easy.
“I’m not trying to downplay what they did to us in previous years,” Still said. “We understand they have our numbers and we want to go out there and snap that streak but we also want to prove ourselves.”
The Hawkeyes, idle last week, were impressive offensively, averaging 37.8 points and 421.8 yards per game, but shaky on defense, allowing 23.8 points and 385.5 yards per game, during their first four games. They’re looking to improve to 6-7 in Big Ten openers under head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Four of those wins have come against Penn State, which won its conference opener last weekend, clipping Indiana 16-10 in Bloomington.
The Nittany Lions haven’t been dominant in any of their first five games but are still in position to achieve many of their preseason goals. Improving to 2-0 in conference play with a win over their nemesis would be a good start.
“I think our kids, we’re in the middle of trying to do something special,” said Paterno, who is 11-11 against Iowa but 2-8 against Ferentz. “I think that Iowa is the next step. Even though they may have some thoughts about Iowa ‘has beaten us that many times, we’ve got to beat them and show them we're pretty good.’ I don’t know. I’ve never approached it that way.”
Paterno’s players say they aren’t putting any more importance on a game against a team that seems to have a hold on them any more than they would on any other conference game, nor do they believe they need a win over the Hawkeyes to help define an identity that some fans believe they’ve lacked in the early part of the season.
“We need to win. We always need to win,” Penn State safety Drew Astorino said. “It’s about halfway through the season. I think we better know who we are by now.
“Every game in the Big Ten is a must-win if you want to win the Big Ten championship.”
Notes: The game will be televised on ABC/ESPN. ... Iowa leads the series 12-11. ... This is the first time since 2007 and just the fourth time since Penn State joined the Big Ten that neither team is ranked in the Top 25 going into the game. ... The Nittany Lions’ 1986 national championship team will be honored during today’s game. ... Penn State’s defense has held four of its first five opponents to 10 points or less for the first time since 1996.