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Sports Then and Now

Iowa vs. Penn State: Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold…

Posted on September 24, 2009 by JA Allen
Daniel Murray celebrates his game-winning kick that stunned Penn State in 2008.

Daniel Murray celebrates his game-winning kick that stunned Penn State in 2008.

Last year on November 8, 2008, the perfect Penn State Nittany Lions came calling at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City hoping to secure a shot at the national championship as one of the teams in the creme de la creme BCS Bowl in Miami.

Unfortunately for them the Iowa Hawkeyes had another scenario in mind.

The Nittany Lions needed this victory to continue the season undefeated.  Penn State was already grumbling  about the possibility of not receiving the call to play in Miami even if they were undefeated at the end of the season.

After the game there was no need to concern themselves about being overlooked.  Their season-ending dream was shattered.

It all came down to the end when Iowa kicker Daniel Murray lofted a field goal through the uprights with one second left on the clock. Penn State was stunned as Iowa fans erupted flooding the field, celebrating one of biggest kicks in Iowa’s storied history.

Until the kick Murray was only 1 for 3 for the season.  He had been replaced in the lineup by Trent Mossbrucker and most of the time Murray was only used for kickoffs.  In fact, Murray had not been successful on a field goal attempt since the opening game.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz sent Murray in to attempt the kick despite his less than stellar performance on the season because the winds were swirling and Ferentz sensed that Murray’s strong leg would serve Iowa’s fortunes best in this situation.  It proved to be one of Ferentz’s best calls in 2008.

The kick was the culmination as Iowa came back in the fourth quarter to steal the victory 24-23.

Penn State seemed to have an iron grip on the game, leading 23-14 at the end of the third quarter.  First year starting Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi suffered both an interception and a fumble on the afternoon but pulled himself together to marshal a magnificent fourth quarter.

It unfolded with Shonn Greene, Iowa’s All-American running back from 2008, scoring a touchdown from 6 yards out.  It was his second TD on the day.  The score stood at 23-21 with 9:20 left on the clock.

With Penn State in possession, Iowa needed a hold to force them to punt or turn the ball over.  Penn State was eating up the clock, trying desperately to retain their hold on the ball and on the game. Finally they had to punt; but Iowa was called for roughing the punter, allowing Penn State to hang onto ball.  Iowa fans seethed at the injustice.

Daryll Clark's late interception helped Iowa get in position for the victory.

Daryll Clark's late interception helped Iowa get in position for the victory.

With a little over 3 1/2 minutes left on the clock, Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark launched an errant pass down the middle.  Hawkeye Tyler Sash intercepted the pass and returned it to the Iowa 29-yard line.

The tide was turning in Iowa’s favor as the Lions were flagged for pass interference on third down and Iowa retained possession advancing midfield where they started first and ten.

That is when Ricky Stanzi stepped up and threw the definitive down-your-throat pass to Derrell Johnson- Koulianos who caught it on the Penn State 15 yard line with 18 seconds left in the game.

All the while Iowa fans were on their feet screaming for the victory and spurring on the Hawkeyes.

All that was left was for Murray to kick that ball spiraling through the uprights and into history.  It was the defining moment for an Iowa team who had struggled all season to find themselves and secure their destiny.  Up to that point Iowa had lost 4 games by a total of 12 points.

They have not lost a game since the afternoon of November 8 of 2008. The Iowa Hawkeyes stood out as the only Big 10 team to win their post-season bowl – Iowa played on New Year’s Day in the Outback Bowl against Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks, winning convincingly 31-10.

This year the stakes are equally as high.  Penn State ranked number seven heads into Saturday’s contest undefeated, waiting for their season to be defined.  To date, Penn State has played no team of consequence. Their capabilities are unknown, their resolve untested.  It is like stepping onto the dance floor for the first time in a contest, hoping your feet don’t fail you now as the judges mark your score.

Iowa, again unranked, has shown promise in moments but not consistency.  The defense has proven worthy but the offense seems out of sync at times.  This game could cement their season and propel them to win the Big 10 out right.  The impetus gained from such a win would carry them over the top.

Once again, however, the game is more critical to Penn State than to the Iowa Hawkeyes who are underdogs on the road.  Iowa can still have a decent season after losing this contest in Happy Valley.

For Penn State to lose at home to an unranked team would throw them out of the top 10 and make capturing the Big 10 title very difficult.

Penn State still must meet Michigan in Ann Arbor and Ohio State at home.  There are always unknown potholes on the road that can propel some lesser-ranked team to leap up and steal your glory – just as Iowa did last season.

The Nittany Lions suffer anxiety in facing Iowa on Saturday.  They may be full of fire and brimstone seeking retribution for last year’s loss but are they ready to field a team offering first class effort on both sides of ball?  Will their offensive line offer any resistance to Iowa’s first-rate defense?

Will Iowa’s offense finally fire on all cylinders?

Questions, questions – all to be answered Saturday night when Iowa faces Penn State on national television in chilly Happy Valley….

JA Allen is a regular contributor to Sports Then and Now.

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