IOWA CITY, Iowa –Penn State battled Iowa in a mismatch of styles Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium. In the end it was the Nittany Lions who prevailed, scoring on the very last play of the game to win, 21-19. Let's review the highs and lows of the Big Ten thriller.
PLAY OF THE GAME Facing the destiny of their season, the Nittany Lions showed up when it mattered most. Trailing 19-14 with 1:42 left to play, quarterback Trace McSorley engineered a 12-play, 80 yard touchdown drive, capped by a fourth-and-goal completion to Juwan Johnson as time expired. The touchdown cemented a 21-19 win for the Nittany Lions.
BEST PASS McSorley's pass to Jonson went over the outstretched fingertips of an Iowa defender and landed in Johnson's hands. A game-winner can't get much better than that. As a runner up, backed into his own end zone in the second quarter, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley remained patient in a rare pocket and delivered a strike to DaeSean Hamilton downfield for a crucial 23-yard gain.
WORST PASS Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley had wideout Matt VandeBerg alone in the middle of field on the Hawkeyes’ first possession of the evening. The ball sailed over his receivers’ head though and eventually led to an Iowa punt, swinging field position right back to the Nittany Lions. Stanley missed VandeBerg again to open the second quarter with an easy, over-the-middle attempt.
BEST RUN Saquon Barkley put on a show Saturday night in Iowa City. His third quarter carry for 44 yards may have been his best on a night filled with, at times, absurdly good runs. Bouncing the ball outside, Barkley seemingly stopped at will along the sideline, breaking it back in to collect another 20 yards.
BEST CATCH In an otherwise completely lifeless first half for the Hawkeyes, receiver Nick Easley took advantage of a late Iowa defensive interception with a 21-yard touchdown catch. The single play nearly doubled Iowa’s offensive yardage, and gave the hosts an unexpected 7-5 lead in the process. Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s leaping reception midway through the third quarter, picking up 29 yards in the process, was also one of the night’s acrobatic catches.
WORST DROP VandeBerg put his Hawkeyes in a hole early when he dropped a well-placed swing pass from Stanley. On a critical fourth down play for the Nittany Lions in the second quarter, receiver Brandon Polk couldn’t haul in a pass from backpedaling quarterback McSorley to secure the first down.
BEST SACK With Iowa finding a brief breath of life on an overturned interception hauled in by Grant Haley, Penn State’s defensive line snuffed it out. Faced with a crucial third down, DT Curtis Cothran brought down Stanley in the backfield to force a punt.
BEST HIT Penn State’s first kickoff of the evening put a spotlight on its outstanding coverage unit when Brandon Smith walloped Ivory Kelly-Martin at the Iowa 18-yard line. Later, a wild handoff fake to Barkley got the Nittany Lion running back completely demolished in the backfield midway through the second quarter. Barkley landed on his hands but was truly upended on the play.
BEST EFFORT Barkley used the third quarter of Saturday night’s game to show the world what makes him so special. On the same possession, he started with a 44-yard unbelievable play, then finished the drive with a remarkable touchdown run in which he extended his right arm - with the ball - over the pylon for a touchdown. Shareef Miller made good on his honoring of Torrence Brown, bringing down Iowa running back Akrum Wadley in the end zone to cement a safety and a 5-0 Nittany Lion lead.
BEST KICK Penn State punter Blake Gillikin continued to prove his incredible value to the Nittany Lions. His offense lethargic in the first half, Gillikin booted a 39-yard punt perfectly toward the Hawkeye end zone which was downed by Irvin Charles at the 1-yard line to pin the hosts deep.
WORST KICK Tyler Davis and the FG unit’s early struggles this season continued Saturday night as his second attempt, this one from 41-yards early in the second quarter, sailed wide left.
BEST DECISION Penn State head coach James Franklin opted to have Iowa punt again after an illegal formation penalty against the Hawkeyes early in the second quarter. The decision paid off as another attempt fell short, and the Lions were aided by a kick catch interference penalty that brought the Lions even farther into Hawkeye territory. The field position swing was to the tune of 37 yards.
MOST TELLING MOMENT Penn State redshirt sophomore defensive end Miller prompted a double-take before the game even started, sporting Torrence Brown’s No. 19 instead of his own No. 48 jersey. After Brown left last weekend's game early due to injury, the gesture was telling. Penn State confirmed during the game that Brown will miss the remainder of the season.