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Penn State Football Falls to Iowa, Drops to 0-5 for First Time in Program History

by on November 21, 2020 7:03 PM

Penn State football (0-5) wasn’t able to snap its losing streak on Saturday, losing to Iowa (3-2) 41-21 at Beaver Stadium.

The Nittany Lions were outplayed on both sides of the ball by Kirk Ferentz’s team. Penn State once again struggled in the first half, and despite a comeback attempt, was unable to cut Iowa’s lead to single digits at any point in the final 30 minutes of action.

Quarterback Will Levis made his first start of the season for Penn State, but the result was the same for the Nittany Lions as they fall to 0-5 for the first time in the program's 134-year history.

How It Happened

Penn State won the opening toss and elected to receive, giving Will Levis the ball to start the game. Pat Freiermuth didn’t suit up for the game and Brenton Strange got the start at tight end.

Levis picked up a first down with a 13-yard completion to Parker Washington, but the offense then stalled and was forced to punt.

Iowa marched down into Penn State’s territory with ease, but had to settle for a Keith Duncan 40-yard field goal attempt. He converted, and the Hawkeyes took a 3-0 lead with 8:23 left in the first quarter.

The Nittany Lions got it going on offense on the next drive, picking up multiple first downs and entering the red zone thanks to Levis’ dual-threat ability. Later in the drive, Keyvone Lee scored his second career touchdown to put Penn State up 7-3 with 2:12 left in the first quarter.

The 14-play, 75-yard drive gave the Nittany Lions their first lead in a game season since week one. The first quarter ended with Iowa driving deep into Penn State’s territory.

Tyler Goodson punched it in for Iowa with a 10-yard touchdown run to give the Hawkeyes a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Iowa marched down the field in less than three minutes with a dominant running game, totaling 52 rushing yards on the drive.

The two teams traded three-and-outs before the Nittany Lions made their first big mistake of the game. Levis pitched the ball behind Lee, it fell to the turf, and Iowa recovered in Penn State territory.

The Hawkeyes took advantage and punched it in the end zone on a Mekhi Sargent one-yard touchdown run to give the Hawkeyes a 17-7 lead with 6:34 left in the first half.

On the ensuing drive, Penn State went for it on fourth down in Iowa’s territory and failed to convert. Brent Pry’s defense forced a three-and-out, however, as Shaka Toney sacked Spencer Petras on third down to force an Iowa punt.

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The Nittany Lions, once again, went for it on fourth down on the next drive and failed to convert, giving the ball back to Iowa with 53 seconds left in the half. The Hawkeyes capitalized with another Sargent touchdown to give them a 24-7 lead going into halftime.

Coming out of the half, Penn State’s defense came to play. Shaka Toney and Adisa Isaac sacked Petras on second and third down to force a three-and-out.

On the Nittany Lions’ first offensive play of the half, Levis was sacked, he fumbled, and Iowa recovered the ball. The Hawkeyes followed that up with an 12-play, 54-yard drive ending in a Petras touchdown run to put them up 31-7.

Penn State went three and out, but caught a break when Iowa fumbled on the next drive. The Nittany Lions recovered the ball in Iowa’s territory.

Sean Clifford entered the game and immediately threw a 28-yard touchdown to Brenton Strange to cut the lead to 31-13. The extra point was blocked, however, and the score stayed at 31-13 with 4:49 left in the third quarter.

Penn State held Iowa to a 50-yard field goal attempt on the next drive, which was missed to keep the score 31-13.

On the very next play, Clifford found Dotson for a 68-yard touchdown to cut Iowa’s lead to 31-19.


Clifford and Lee then connected for the two-point conversion to make it a 31-21 game at the end of the third quarter.

The momentum was short-lived, as on the next offensive drive, Clifford’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Chauncey Golston. Iowa capitalized with a Duncan 24-yard field goal to extend the lead to 34-21 with 7:14 left in the game.

Penn State’s offense wasn’t able to get much going on the next drive and punted the ball back to Iowa with 3:19 remaining in the game. The Hawkeyes went three and out and gave the ball back to the Nittany Lions with 2:53 left to go.

Clifford was intercepted by defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon, who returned 71 yards for a touchdown to put Iowa up 41-21 with 1:58 remaining. The score would remain the same until the end of the game, as Penn State was unable to score.


  • Different game, same story. Penn State continued its trend of slow starts in the first half. The Nittany Lions were outscored 24-7 and out-gained 223-161 in the first 30 minutes of action. Additionally, Penn State averaged just four yards per play in the first half
  • Will Levis failed to impress in his first start of the year. He went 13-16 through the air for 106 yards. Additionally, he ran the ball 15 times for just 34 yards (2.3 yards per carry). He was benched in favor of Sean Clifford late in the third quarter.
  • Penn State’s defense was exposed by Iowa’s offensive line and running backs. Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent combined for 35 carries for 179 yards (5.1 yards per attempt). The Hawkeyes were able to have a consistent running game throughout the entire game.

What’s Next

Penn State will travel to Ann Arbor next week to face off against Michigan. The time and channel of the game have not yet been announced.

Gabe Angieri is a Penn State student and writer for Onward State.
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