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Iowa vs. Penn State: The Best Rivalry in Big Ten College Football, Part 2

Posted on September 30, 2010 by JA Allen

Part 2

Iowa vs. Penn State 2002.

2002: Iowa 42, Penn State 35 (1 OT)

The Date: 9/22/2002. The Place: Beaver Stadium. The Coaches: Kirk Ferentz vs. Joe Paterno.

Once again, the Nittany Lions seemed to underestimate the Hawkeyes in the fan-friendly environs of Beaver Stadium.

The Nittany Lions were such gregarious hosts that they spotted the lower-ranked, unanimously anointed underdog Hawkeyes three touchdowns.

As the game progressed, coach Joe Paterno suffered that sinking feeling once again. It appeared that his team had forgotten how to execute simple pass patterns, and how to run between tacklers.

Penn State turned the ball over twice in the first 22 minutes––giving the Hawkeyes two touchdowns and the Nittany Lions their worst first-quarter performance in almost a decade.

At halftime, Penn State was down, 26-7.

Then, all at once, the Nittany Lions sprung to life with a little over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. They were down, 35-13, at that point.

Penn State stormed back, scoring 22 points to force the game into overtime.

Big Lion tailback Larry Johnson got things rolling when he nabbed a screen pass from quarterback Zack Mills, rambling 36 yards for a touchdown.

Some real heroics and gutsy play sealed the comeback for the Nittany Lions, who tied it up to the chagrin of the Iowa team and their fans.

The Hawkeyes had figured—somewhat prematurely—that they had done enough to win this game in Happy Valley.

Now, there was more to do in overtime. But the Hawkeyes did it.

Under fire, Iowa quarterback Brad Banks threw a six-yard completion to C.J. Jones to take the Hawkeyes up 42-35. This time Penn State could not answer the call, and the game ended.

Once again, the underrated Hawkeyes defeated Penn State in Beaver Stadium.

Iowa had outstanding play on the afternoon by running back Fred Russell, who amassed 142 hard-earned rushing yards, and by vaunted tight end Dallas Clark, who caught four passes for 88 yards and seemed to own the center of the field.

As Joe Paterno chased officials off the field, complaining about certain calls, the curtain fell on another heart-stopper between Penn State and Iowa.

2004: Iowa 6, Penn State 4

Iowa kicker Kyle Schlicher added Iowa's only 6 points on the day.

The Date: 10/23/2004. The Place: Beaver Stadium: The Coaches: Kirk Ferentz vs. Joe Paterno.

The only accurate way to describe this game is ugly––unless you are jazzed by defensive struggles––like down in the trenches for inches instead of yards in a mano e mano struggle for supremacy on the line.

So it was on this Saturday in 2002, as Penn State scored four points on two safeties and No. 25-ranked Iowa scored six points with two field goals.

It goes down in the books as one of the strangest football contests on record in this series and maybe in the annals of football weirdness.

Iowa was having a fairly decent season while Penn State found itself mired in mediocrity. Both teams had great defenses, but suffered from pretty sparse talent and inconsistency on offense.

It started out with a bizarre scenario on Penn State’s first possession of the game. Iowa had lined up to punt the ball when the snap sailed over the head of punter David Bradley, landing in the end zone.  Bradley kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone to score the safety.

The whole game was sandwiched between two safeties for the Nittany Lions––at the beginning and the end of the game.

The Hawkeyes went up 3-2 when Iowa kicker Kyle Schlicher booted a 27-yard field goal through the uprights at the end of the first quarter to cap a 15-play drive. In the second quarter, Sean Considine intercepted a pass by Zack Mills, returning it 53 yards to set up Schlicher’s second field goal, also a 27-yarder.

Iowa led, 6-2, going into halftime.

The game, to this point, had been far from pretty––very far.

In the second half, behind the leadership of quarterback Drew Tate, Iowa managed only three first downs––all of them coming in the fourth quarter as the two teams tried to breathe some life into this contest.

But as bad as Iowa was, Penn State was worse on offense. Inside the Iowa 10-yard line twice in the second half, Penn State failed to score.

Penn State’s Robbie Gould missed a 25-yard field goal wide to the left in the third quarter––should have been a gimme but not on that Saturday.

Then Iowa corner Antwan Allen intercepted a Michael Robinson pass on the 1-yard line. Late in the fourth quarter, the Penn State defense had Iowa pinned deep in their own territory.

In fact, the Hawkeyes, unable to advance the ball, were forced to punt the ball out of their own end zone.

At that point, Ferentz decided to take the safety instead of trying to punt the ball out of the end zone because in his estimation, punting the ball almost guaranteed Penn State three points, and maybe more.

He took the gamble that the Iowa defense could stop Penn State one more time. So Iowa took the safety and the score moved to Iowa 6, Penn State 4.

That is where it ended.  On their first play, Robinson’s pass was intercepted by Iowa’s Jovon Johnson and that ended the game.

2008: Iowa 24, Penn State 23

Daniel Murray's kick with one second left on the clock won the game for Iowa.

The Date: 11/8/2008. The Place: Kinnick Stadium. The Coaches: Joe Paterno vs. Kirk Ferentz.

There was talk of a national championship in the offing––for Penn State, that is.

Penn State was basking in the glow of having defeated perennial power Ohio State, 13-6, on October 25.

The Nittany Lions had the previous week off before facing the Hawkeyes in Kinnick Stadium.

Iowa had suffered four losses––at Pittsburgh, at Michigan State, at Illinois and at home against Northwestern. They’d also managed five wins to date.

Ricky Stanzi had taken over the quarterbacking duties and, with the running game of Shonn Greene clicking, Iowa’s quarterback began to find the end zone on a more regular basis.

Still, it was going to be tough to defeat nationally ranked Penn State, even playing at home.

It was cold and blustery, sitting in the stands watching as the undefeated Nittany Lions stormed onto the field.

No. 3-ranked Penn State stood at 10-0 coming into the contest against Iowa.

Iowa found themselves in a 23-14 deficit as the fourth quarter began. When Greene scored his second touchdown, suddenly Iowa had closed the gap to within two points, 23-21, with nine-and-a-half minutes left to play.

During the game, Greene managed to rush for another 100-plus yards while Stanzi redeemed himself, overcoming an interception and a fumble to lead Iowa down the field on their final drive after Penn State QB Daryll Clark threw his third interception of the season.

This led to the last-gasp drama at the end of the game.

One second was left on the clock with light beginning to fade. The entire college football world watched as Iowa kicker Daniel Murray’s 31-yard field goal sort of flip-flopped through the uprights, giving the Hawkeyes the one-point victory.

The kick seen ’round the world was enough to send the Lion faithful into shock and consternation.

Before this game, an undefeated Penn State looked like a possible contender for the national title game in what many felt would be Joe Paterno’s exit music from Happy Valley.

But it was not to be.

Iowa ended the season in a January 1 Bowl––the Outback Bowl against South Carolina—which the Hawkeyes won, 31-10, ending with a 9-4 record and a No. 20 AP ranking.

Penn State ended their season tied with Ohio State for the Big Ten conference title with an 11-2 record, 7-1 in the Big Ten.

Penn State played USC in the Rose Bowl, which they lost, 38-24.

Saturday, October 2, 2010 is Homecoming, again, for the University of iowa.

The Iowa Vs. Penn State Series Continues: 2010?

Iowa and Penn State, beginning next year, will not be in the same Big Ten conference division, although the two are scheduled to play against each other in 2011 and 2012.

With Nebraska entering the Big Ten, the dynamics of conference rivalries will shift. The full impact of the new alignment, however, will not be realized immediately.

Since entering the Big Ten Conference in 1993, Penn State has losing records against Michigan (5-10), Ohio State (12-13), and Wisconsin (6-8).

The Nittany Lions are currently tied with Iowa (11-11). Both Ohio State and Wisconsin will be division rivals with Penn State––but not Iowa.

The outcome of the game between Iowa and Penn State on October 2, 2010 is still unresolved. No doubt, Iowa will be favored as the higher-ranked team playing at home in Kinnick Stadium.

But we have learned that those pesky incidentals really have no meaning when Iowa plays Penn State under the lights at homecoming.

After the game on Saturday, one team will inch ahead of the other in total wins––but probably, not for long.

The thing is––these football coaching legends at Penn State and more recently at Iowa are good at finding ways to win––even when the odds are not in their team’s favor.

Will that be true this year?

If you missed Part I, click here to read about the years 1996 and 2000.


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