Posted on September 24, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The Iowa Hawkeyes are not one of the more talked about teams in college football. They are not ranked, and they likely will not be anytime soon. But heading into Saturday night’s game against Penn State, many folks thought the Hawkeyes had a chance to pull off the upset— and they nearly did.
Penn State was able to generate some yards against Iowa throughout the game. But the Nittany Lions struggled to turn those yards into points. At the end of the first half, all the offense had to show for its efforts was a field goal. The defense tacked on a safety. But after an interception gave Iowa great field position late in the half, it was the Hawkeyes up 7-5 at the break.
After halftime, Penn State appeared to get its act together. The defense forced a three and out and a turnover on the Hawkeyes first two drives. The offense recorded another field goal and then took the lead, 15-7, after Saquon Barkley ran in from eight yards out for Penn State’s first touchdown of the game.
With how Penn State’s defense was playing, it appeared as if that could be all they needed. But that would only be the case if the defense continued to lock the Iowa offense down—which they didn’t. A 70-yard touchdown reception by Akrum Wadley got Iowa within two (two-point conversion was unsuccessful) closed the gap to 15-13 with ten minutes to play.
Iowa needed their defense to make a big play if the offense was going to have a chance to pull out the win. It did— eventually. At the tail end of a 16-play, 75-yard drive that took 7:23 off the clock they blocked a field goal attempt.
But with only 2:42 left to play it didn’t look good. Iowa’s offense had struggled to generate anything consistently. But things certainly looked pretty good when Akrum Wadley broke lose again, this time from 35-yards out. The score gave Iowa the lead 19-15 (two-point conversion attempt failed) with 1:42 left.
Iowa’s defense was playing well enough to close the game out. But the Penn State offense wasn’t playing too bad either. They just needed to finish a drive off in the end zone, something they had struggled with all day.
While Barkley had been carrying the team, with less than two minutes left, they needed McSorley to step up. Eleven plays later, he had the team seven yards from the go-ahead touchdown with four seconds on the clock.
He had one play to keep the team unbeaten and in good shape for the playoffs—and it worked. He hit Juwan Johnson in the end zone as time expired.
“I wanted to put it high in a spot where only Juwan could get it and [where] it would fit through a tight window,” McSorley said (ESPN).
“I kind of blanked out,” Johnson said (ESPN). “It was kind of like, ‘I can’t believe it happened.’ But I know it can happen, I’ve been practicing it for so long. It’s kind of like a dream.”
McSorley and Johnson made the biggest play of the day at the end of the game. But it was Barkley that carried the team. He ran the ball 28 times for 214 yards and a touchdown, had 12 receptions for 94 yards, and tacked on 53 yards in the return game.
“That boy’s different, y’all saw that,” Penn State defensive end Shareef Miller said after the game (Philly.com). “He jumped over somebody and ran somebody over in the air. That boy’s different.”
Penn State will take on the Indiana Hoosiers at home next weekend. Iowa will try to rebound with a road game against Michigan State.