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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Dismantle Iowa, 38-14; Ohio State Now in Sights

by on October 20, 2012 7:43 PM

IOWA CITY, Iowa — OK, the fourth quarter got a little sloppy. But hey, even Michelangelo needed a drop cloth.

The Nittany Lions entered the final quarter of Saturday's Big Ten Conference game on the tail-end of a march for the ages, going 97 yards in 14 plays in 6 minutes and 27 seconds.

Bill Belton's five-yard touchdown run to cap the drive was his third of the game and gave the Nittany Lions a resounding 38-0 lead.

Then Penn State gave its head coach, Bill O'Brien, exactly what he needed with Ohio State on the horizon for a matchup next Saturday at dusk in a Beaver Stadium sure to be WhiteOuted to the hilt:

Reason to not get complacent.

Over the final quarter, Nittany Lion pin cushion San Ficken had a(nother) field goal blocked, this one from 43 yards out; the PSU kicking team allowed Iowa's Jordan Cotton to return a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown; and running back Zach Zwinak fumbled on his own 37-yard line, setting up a four-play Iowa scoring drive that culminated in an 18-yard scoring toss from Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg to Kennan Davis.

OB was PO'd.

"I think we can play better," O'Brien said. "We got sloppy at the end."

Still, there was a lot to like, beginning with the 38-14 final score.

Belton is back and healthy. He ran 16 times for 103 yards.

Quarterback Matt McGloin continues to show backbone. He completed 26 of 38 passes for 289 yards, with no interceptions and two touchdowns. McG completed passes to nine different receivers, led by tight end Kyle Carter, who grabbed six passes for 85 yards. Overall, the Penn State offense ran 90 plays and had a time of possession advantage of 38:08 to 21:52.

Michael Mauti was back at it, grabbing another interception (Mike Hull had one, too), and leading a defense that has yet to surrender a first-quarter point this season. In fact, the Nittany Lion D was so staunch that the Iowa running game gained just 20 yards on 23 attempts, as gimpy Hawkeye fullback Matt Weisman carried five times for only nine yards. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill led Penn State with nine tackles, while Mauti had eight.

Penn State is back. The Nittany Lions (3-0 Big Ten, 5-2 overall) have won five consecutive games and defeated the Hawkeyes (2-1, 4-3) at Kinnick Stadium for the first time since 1999 -- so long ago that Kirk Ferentz was in his first year as Iowa's head coach. As such, O'Brien won the Belichick Bowl.

Now, it is on to the IneligbleBowl.

Third Quarter Update: Penn State 31, Iowa 0

Consider this one on ice. Jesse Della Valle needed one more block to spring his 56-yard kickoff return to open the second half into a touchdown. No matter. Matt McGloin hit Brandon Moseby-Felder for 42 yards on the first play of the half, and Bill Belton punched it in from three yards out to give Penn State a 31-0 lead.

Penn State, driving deep in Iowa territory to open the fourth quarter, will remain unbeaten in the Big Ten.

Halftime Update: Penn State 24, Iowa 0

IOWA CITY, Iowa — All was quiet at halftime. The students threw their yellow towels as their team jogged into the locker room.

Officially, this game, which Penn State leads, 24-0, is half over.

Unofficially, the countdown toward unbeaten Ohio State next week at Beaver Stadium has started.

Sam Ficken kicked in a 34-yard field goal, and Bill Belton scampered 11 yards following an Iowa lost fumble to give Penn State a commanding halftime lead.

Belton, who looks totally replenished following the bye week, has gained 68 yards on just eight carries, Matt McGloin has thrown for 198 yards and two touchdowns and Kyle Carter has six catches for 85 yards to pace the Nittany Lions offense.

Defensively, Penn State is in line for its first shutout since Kent State back in 2010.

First Quarter Update: Penn State 14, Iowa 0

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It took two minutes and 49 seconds for Kirk Ferentz to realize this is not your Penn State team of a bygone era, one he defeated eight of 11 times.

Once Penn State shifted into its NASCAR package on its second drive of the game, nine plays covering 84 yards and 2:49 of clock introduced Ferentz to a much different Penn State team than the conservative kind he thwarted time and again.

Meet Bill O’Brien, whose pro-style offense imported from the New England Patriots made its primetime debut under the lights at Kinnick Stadium and may be the damndest thing to hit the Big Ten this year. It’s got Penn State ahead, 14-0 at the end of one quarter, and Iowa, offensively challenged as is, can’t afford to fall behind by much more.

How did we get here? Once O’Brien upped the tempo, Bill Belton scampered off back-to-back runs of six and 23. Four plays later, quarterback Matt McGloin avoided a pass rush, scrambled around and fired a dart to Jesse James for a 31-yard touchdown.

Both of Penn State’s nine-play scoring drives lasted less than three minutes. Besides the tempo by which O’Brien runs his offense, the sheer confidence he has in it is fascinating as well. On 4th-and-3 at the Iowa 45, Penn State never huddled until Iowa took a defensive timeout. After the break, McGloin lobbed one up to the redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Carter, who went over the top of Hawkeyes cornerback Greg Hyde to haul in a 34-yard completion down to the Iowa 11. Allen Robinson caught an eight-yard touchdown three plays later.

For so long these teams’ styles mirrored each other. Big Ten football, a slow, possession-based chess match predicated on field position, a strong run game and solid stout defense.

Saturday night, that 0-for-4 record at Kinnick since 1999 hovered above this game like the white smoke that lingered in the air following pregame fireworks. It’s clear now: This Penn State team is unlike any Ferentz has seen before.

Pregame

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Some quick pregame notes to pass along as we approach kickoff at Kinnick Stadium:

1. Iowa RB Mark Weisman is dressed and participated in pregame warm-ups. Weisman injured his ankle last week at Michigan State, and coach Kirk Ferentz did not sound optimistic he would be able to play against Penn State. Stay tuned.

2. Ten true freshmen made the trip for Penn State, including running back Akeel Lynch and wide receiver Eugene Lewis. Both are redshirting this season and would only be used in an emergency situation. Left off the travel roster is linebacker Nyeem Wartman, who has been out since Sept. 8 with a sprained knee and bone bruise. Wartman returned to practice this week and is being considered as a medical redshirt candidate.

3. Penn State is wearing pink wrist bands, gloves and towels to raise awareness for breast cancer.

4. Iowa is deploying its stripe effect inside Kinnick Stadium, where each section alternates between wearing all back and all yellow. The Hawkeyes student section, though, is dressed in all black. Resting on each seat pregame was a yellow rally towel. As charged an atmosphere as Penn State will see this season on the road.



Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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