Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions were able to escape from Bloomington in the Big Ten opener, as the Hoosiers game winning Hail Mary effort came up five yards short. The Penn State offense once again sputtered and was unable to put the game away, scoring just one touchdown and having to settle for three field goals in the red zone. Both quarterbacks once again played, with Matt McGloin looking much better as he threw for 204 yards and a touchdown compared to Rob Bolden’s 67 yards and an interception. Penn State turned the ball over three times total, fumbling the ball twice in addition to Bolden’s pick. The offense was able to win the time of possession battle as they were on the field 37 minutes to Indiana’s 23, controlling the clock by giving Silas Redd 29 carries en route to 129 yards. Anthony Fera was solid in the kicking game, making three of his four field goals with the miss being a 52 yarder at the end of the first half. Since joining the Big Ten in 1993 Penn State has an all-time record of 5-9 against Iowa, losing the last three matchups and eight of nine overall.
Saturday’s game will be the Big Ten opener for the Iowa Hawkeyes who are coming off a bye this past weekend. The trip to Happy Valley will be the second road test for Iowa, having lost their only away game 44-41 in overtime at Iowa State. Junior quarterback James Vandenburg has played well in his first season as the Hawkeyes starting quarterback, throwing for 1095 yards with ten touchdowns and one interception in four games. Senior wideout Marvin McNutt has been Vandenburg’s favorite target, catching 25 passes for 413 yards and four scores. McNutt had one of his better games of the season last year against Penn State, having five receptions for 93 yards. Sophomore running back Marcus Coker has been the workhorse of the offense and ranks third in the big ten with 87 carries thus far, accumulating 380 yards with four touchdowns in the process. Defensively Iowa has struggled more so this season than in year’s past, ranking just 53rd in the NCAA allowing 24 points per game.
Kirk Fererntz must hunt Nittany Lions in his spare time because the 12 year head coach comes into this game with an 8-2 lifetime record against his idol Joe Paterno. Galin Hall and Jay Paterno will have to open up the playbook a bit if they want to have success against an Iowa defense that has had their number over the past two years, with Penn State being outscored 45-13 in the two meetings. I do expect for the quarterback carousel to potentially come to an end after McGloin outperformed Bolden in last week’s victory, which would give the offense some much needed stability. James Vandenburg has yet to face a defense and an environment that is as intimidating as Tom Bradley’s here at Beaver Stadium, so I fully expect that he will make his share of mistakes and potentially set the Nittany Lions up with some scoring opportunities. If Penn State can protect the ball and find the endzone at lease once or twice they may be able to pull off an upset here at home. But those might be tall tasks for this 2011 squad, and given Penn State’s track record against Iowa they could quite possibly be handed their second loss.