Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades After Penn State's 38-14 Victory Over Iowa
In August, coach Bill O'Brien told reporters not to expect an offense that would score 35-to-40 points a game. Little did O'Brien know that his team would do just that, averaging more than 30 points a contest in conference play.
Saturday night's test against Iowa was no different, as a dominating display of football led to a 38-14 victory that sent the Hawkeye faithful home shaking their heads. For Bill O'Brien, it meant safe passage to next Saturday's matchup against undefeated Ohio State.
Offense A-: It's hard to find a fault with how the Penn State offense played Saturday night. Matt McGloin was sharp, Bill Belton rushed for three touchdowns, and the offensive line pushed around an Iowa defensive front that was ranked near the top of the league.
With 504 total yards of offense, 28 first downs, and 90 plays from scrimmage, Penn State ran over an Iowa team that was expecting a low-scoring game. Penn State's offense has now outscored its opponent, 66-0 in the first quarter this season.
On the negative side, Allen Robinson dropped a few passes that likely should have been caught, and a few miscues in the backfield could have led to more turnovers. Zach Zwinak ran well in the backup roll to Belton, but two fumbles, both in the red zone, could be a costly mistake against a team such as Ohio State.
Defense A: Penn State's defense gave up just over 200 yards of offense and routinely stopped the Iowa offense in its tracks. After receiving some early flack, defensive coordinator Ted Roof has turned Penn State's defense into one of the best in the nation, and players such as Michael Mauti are thriving in it.
The Nittany Lion defense has given up 23 third-down conversions out of 76 attempts over the past five games, a stat that is one of the best indicators of how well the team is playing right now.
Special Teams D: A short punt by Alex Butterworth, a blocked field goal, and a kickoff return for a touchdown all exposed the one area Penn State has yet to figure out. Sam Ficken's 34-yard field goal was a nice step forward, but too many mistakes could have cost the Nittany Lions in a close game.
MVP: Penn State dominated as a team, but McGloin is the pilot behind the Nittany Lions offense. Completing 26-of-38 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns is a hard stat line to beat. Mauti came to play again Saturday night and also gets the now-expected MVP nod.
Final Thoughts: A Penn State victory sets up what may very well be the most anticipated game in Beaver Stadium since 2005. The Nittany Lions can argue that they are the most complete team in the conference and will have a chance to prove it in six short days.