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PREVIEW: No. 10/9 Penn State Set for Primetime Game at No. 17/18 Iowa

by | Oct 7, 2019 | Football Blogs, Headlines, RRSN News | 0 comments

No. 10/9 Penn State Set for Primetime Game at No. 17/18 Iowa

  • OPENING KICK: No. 10/9 Penn State returns to the road to face its first nationally-ranked opponent of the season, visiting No. 17/18 Iowa Saturday night in Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on ABC.
  • TOP SCORING DEFENSES: Penn State (7.4 ppg) and Iowa (8.8 ppg) rank second and third, respectively, in FBS in scoring defense this season, trailing only Wisconsin (5.8 ppg). Penn State has not allowed more than 13 points in a game this season, while Iowa has not allowed more than 17. Penn State has yielded just seven points in its last two games, while Iowa held No. 16 Michigan to 10 points in its last game.
  • NAIL-BITERS: The last two Penn State-Iowa games have been decided by eight combined points, highlighted by a “walk-off” touchdown win for Penn State the last time the teams met in Iowa City in 2017. In that game, the Nittany Lions were down four facing fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line with four seconds remaining, but Trace McSorley zipped a pass to Juwan Johnson in the back of the end zone for a 21-19 win. Last season, a Nick Scott interception at the goal line halted an Iowa drive with 3:18 remaining, securing a 30-24 Penn State win.
  • BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Looking to post its fifth consecutive 40-plus sack season, Penn State has 25 sacks through five games to average a nation-leading 5.0 sacks per game. Penn State’s pass rush is led by Yetur Gross-Matos (5.5 total, 1.10 spg) and Shaka Toney (5.0 total, 1.00 spg), who rank 11th and 12th, respectively in FBS. The Nittany Lions also lead the country with 10.4 tackles for loss per game.
  • THE OPPOSITION: Iowa is 4-1 this season after having its unbeaten start spoiled by No. 16 Michigan last week in a 10-3 defensive battle. The Hawkeyes have been particularly strong on defense, ranking fifth nationally in total defense (254.2 ypg) and third in scoring defense (8.8 ppg), but are also strong offensively, ranking second in FBS in time of possession (35:41) and fifth in the Big Ten with 424.4 yards per game.

HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ
Kirk Ferentz is in his 21st season as head football coach and 30th season overall at Iowa.
Ferentz is the longest-tenured head football coach in the nation and the winningest coach in Iowa history.
In 2015, Ferentz was recognized with both the Hayes-Schembecher and Dave McClain Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year awards. He was named Eddie Robinson and Woody Hayes national Coach of the Year and received the Dodd Trophy.
Ferentz attended Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh and graduated from Connecticut in 1978. He was a football captain and an Academic All-Yankee Conference linebacker at UConn.

SCOUTING THE HAWKEYES
Iowa is 4-1 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play and ranked No. 17 by the Associated Press and No. 18 in the Amway Coaches Polls.
Last week, Iowa limited No. 16 Michigan to 10 points and 267 yards of offense, but only managed a field goal in its first loss of the season. The Wolverines sacked Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley eight times for a loss of 65 yards, leaving the Hawkeyes with just one rushing yard.
Stanley ranks 15th in FBS among active career leaders in passing yards with 6,576.
Iowa is one of four teams (joining Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin) to rank in the top four of the Big Ten in both total offense and defense.

IOWA CONNECTIONS
Penn State sophomore K Jake Pinegar and Iowa sophomore DB Riley Moss played together at Ankeny Centennial in Iowa.
Penn State redshirt freshmen OL Juice Scruggs and WR Henry Fessler and junior DT Evan Presta, and Iowa redshirt freshman DB Terry Roberts played together at Cathedral Prep in Erie.
Penn State redshirt freshman OL Rasheed Walker and Iowa senior WR Devonte Young both attended North Point in Maryland.
Penn State OL coach Matt Limegrover was the offensive line coach at Emporia State while Iowa WR coach Kelton Copeland played there as a quarterback from 1999-2000.

NITTANY LION FROM IOWA
K Jake Pinegar – Ankeny/Centennial

WINNING THE WEST
Penn State has won its last 11 games against Big Ten West Division opponents, dating back to an overtime win over Minnesota on Oct. 1, 2016.
The streak includes Penn State’s Big Ten Championship Game victory over Wisconsin in 2016 and three wins over Iowa.

LIONS UNDER THE LIGHTS
The 2019 season marks the 19th straight with at least one regular-season night game on the schedule, the 11th since 2000 with multiple night games in the same season and the most night regular season games in program history with four scheduled.
Penn State has won its first two night games this season, defeating Maryland, 59-0, (Sept. 27) and Buffalo, 45-13 (Sept. 7).
Penn State is scheduled to play back-to-back night games at Iowa (Oct. 12) and vs. Michigan (Oct. 19) with 7:30 p.m. kickoffs on ABC for both.
Game times for the final six games of the regular season have not been announced.
Penn State’s only losses in its last 12 night games are both to Ohio State.
Penn State is 53-31 at night all-time. The figure breaks down to 15-10 at home, 26-14 on the road and 12-7 in neutral site games. Penn State is 1-1 at regular season neutral sites, 11-6 in bowl games and 1-0 in conference championship games.
On Oct. 12, 2013, the Lions claimed the longest game in Big Ten history when they edged Michigan under the lights, 43-40, in four overtimes in front of a sellout Beaver Stadium crowd of 107,844 on Homecoming.

COMPLEMENTARY FOOTBALL
Penn State (2nd, 7.4 ppg allowed; t-5th, 47.0 ppg scored) and Ohio State (4th, 8.8 ppg allowed; 4th, 49.3 ppg scored) are the only two teams to rank in the Top 10 nationally in both scoring defense and offense.
The Nittany Lions have played complementary football over the last three-plus years (2016-19) and it shows in the national landscape.
Over the last three-plus years the Penn State offense is:
Sixth in FBS in points per possession (2.35).
Fourth in FBS in points per play (1.75).
Seventh in FBS in scoring offense (39.85).
Eighth in FBS in scoring percentage (43.39).
Ninth in FBS in touchdown percentage (34.92).
Ninth in FBS in turnover percentage (12.37).
Over the last three-plus years the Penn State defense is:
Second in FBS in plays per point (4.92)
Fourth in FBS in three-and-out percentage (29.03).
Sixth in FBS in yards per play (4.72).
Seventh in FBS in points per possession (1.22).
Ninth in FBS in second half points allowed (8.91).
Sixth in FBS in scoring percentage (23.83).
Ninth in FBS in touchdown percentage (16.78).
Fifth in FBS in punt percentage (48.66).
Eighth in FBS in scoring defense (17.46).
Eighth in FBS in percent of drives not crossing the 50-yard line (60.64).
Sixth in FBS in percent of non-scoring drives (76.67).
Sixth in FBS in percent of drives of 25 yards or less (59.22).
Eighth in FBS in percent of drive of six plays or less (61.17).

CONTROLLING THE GAME
Penn State has led by three point or more for 85.6 percent of its plays (725-847) this season, which ranks sixth in FBS.
The Nittany Lions have held a lead for 73.9 percent of their plays over the last three seasons (2017-19) to rank second in FBS, behind only Alabama.
Over a four-year span (2016-19), Penn State has held the lead for 64.6 percent of the plays, which is seventh among FBS schools.
By comparison, from 2013-15, Penn State led for 42.8 percent (2760 of 6453) of its plays, to rank 69th in FBS.

STRONG STARTS
Penn State is the only remaining FBS team that has not allowed a first quarter point this season.
Penn State is outscoring opponents 69-0 in the first quarter.
The Nittany Lions’ 21 first quarter points vs. Purdue were the most in an opening stanza since scoring 21 vs. Kent State in the first quarter last season.
The 21 first quarter points were also the most in a Big Ten game since notching 28 vs. Indiana in the opening stanza of 2017.

SOLID IN THE MIDDLE
Penn State is not leaving early for halftime or returning late, boasting a plus-7.4 scoring differential in the middle eight minutes of the game to rank seventh in FBS.
Penn State owns a plus-5.6 scoring differential in the first four minutes of the second half, which ranks tied for first in FBS with Oklahoma and Maryland.
Penn State has not allowed a point in the first four minutes of the second half this season.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY INCREASING
Five of Penn State’s seven remaining opponents (Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State) are nationally ranked or receiving top-25 votes.
Of those five teams, Penn State will play all but Michigan (Oct. 19) on the road.
Penn State’s seven remaining opponents are a combined 27-10 with a .730 winning percentage. That future opponent winning percentage is tied for the fourth-highest of all FBS teams.

BLACKLEDGE ON ABC BROADCAST TEAM
Former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge will be calling Saturday’s game.
Blackledge led Penn State to an 11-1 record and its first National Championship with a 27-23 victory over previously unbeaten Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl. He earned the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback in 1982, was sixth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy and concluded his collegiate career with 26 school records.
A three-year starter, Blackledge directed the Nittany Lions to a 29-4 record, including 13 comeback victories, from 1980-82, including two Fiesta Bowl wins and one Sugar Bowl victory.
Blackledge began his national broadcasting career in 1994 with ABC Sports, serving as a studio and game analyst. He then served as a game analyst for ESPN (1997-98) before joining CBS in 1999. He returned to ESPN/ABC in 2006.
Blackledge received the University’s prestigious Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009.
Blackledge earned a B.A. in speech communication in 1983, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a 3.80 grade point average. A first-team Academic All-American, he also was presented the Eric Walker Award, given to the Penn State senior who has most “enhanced the esteem and recognition of the University.” In 1997, Blackledge was inducted into the prestigious Academic All-America Hall of Fame.

STREAKING
Sophomore WR KJ Hamler has a reception in all 18 games of his career.
Sophomore TE Pat Freiermuth has a reception in his last 17 games (all but his first career game).
Sophomore QB Sean Clifford has thrown for at least 200 yards in his last five games.
Penn State has won its last eight regular-season games.
Penn State has won its last 11 games against Big Ten West Division opponents, beginning with an overtime win over Minnesota on Oct. 1, 2016.
Penn State has won 10 consecutive games over non-conference opponents during the regular season, dating back to a win over Temple in 2016.
The Nittany Lions have won 16-straight non-conference regular-season home games, dating back to a win over Kent State in 2013.
The Nittany Lions have won their last 14 consecutive against their neighbors (schools within 250 miles of Beaver Stadium).

MILESTONE WIN FOR COACH FRANKLIN
In the Purdue game on Oct. 5, head coach James Franklin earned his 50th win in 71 games at Penn State.
Franklin is the second-fastest coach to 50 wins in Penn State history, trailing only Joe Paterno, who had 50 wins in his first 61 games as head coach of the Nittany Lions.

EFFICIENT AND CONSISTENT
QB Sean Clifford’s 16.03 passing yards per completion ranks sixth in FBS and leads the Big Ten.
Clifford’s 10.69 yards per pass attempt rank sixth in FBS and is second in the Big Ten.
Clifford’s 288.6 passing yards per game leads the Big Ten and ranks 14th in FBS.
Clifford has thrown for at least 200 yards in five-straight games.
Clifford ranks third in the Big Ten and eighth in FBS with a 182.8 passing efficiency rating.
Clifford’s 23 completions of 20 or more yards rank tied for 13th in FBS.
Clifford’s 12 completions of 30 or more yards rank tied for eighth in FBS.
Clifford’s nine completions of 40 or more yards rank tied for third in FBS.
Clifford’s five completions of 50 or more yards rank tied for fifth in FBS.

DUAL THREAT
QB Sean Clifford (1,443 passing yds; 12 passing TDs; 200 rushing yds, 2 rushing TD) is one of four FBS quarterbacks with at least 1,400 yards passing, 12 passing touchdowns, 200 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns this season, joining Texas’ Sam Ehlinger (1,448 passing yds; 17 passing TDs; 236 rushing yds; 3 rush TD), Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (1,523 passing yds; 14 passing TDs; 499 rushing yds; 7 rush TD) and Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman (1,521 passing yds; 14 passing TDs; 262 rushing yds; 3 rush TD).
Averaging 328.6 yards of total offense per game, Clifford leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th in FBS.
Clifford totaled the third-most yards of total offense in a game in school history at Maryland with 452 (398 pass, 54 rush).
Clifford is third on the team with 200 yards rushing. The total ranks 16th at Penn State for season rushing yards by a quarterback. He is 1 yard behind Zack Mills (2002) for 15th.
Clifford has a rushing touchdown and passing touchdown in each of the last two games.
Clifford had a career-long 58-yard rush against Buffalo and his first career rushing touchdown at Maryland.
Clifford ranks 14th all-time at Penn State with 197 career rushing yards as a quarterback.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY IN THE AIR
On two occasions this season 13 different Nittany Lions have caught a pass in the same game. Penn State first accomplished the feat against Idaho in the season opener and did so again at Maryland.
Clifford connected with 11 different Lions in the first half of the Maryland game.
WRs Dan Chisena and Isaac Lutz both hauled in their first career receptions at Maryland. Chisena’s catch was a 40-yard reception on which he was interfered on.
A total of 17 different Nittany Lions have caught at least one pass this season, with 14 catching multiple passes.

LOW SCORING
Penn State is second in scoring defense overall, allowing just 7.4 points per game to trail only Wisconsin (5.8 ppg).
Penn State is the only team in FBS to not allow a point in the first quarter this season.
The seven points allowed by Penn State in the last two Big Ten games (0 at Maryland, 7 vs. Purdue) are the fewest allowed in a two-game stretch of Big Ten games in a single season since joining the conference in 1993. The previous low was allowing 10 in two consecutive games on two occasions (last in 2018).
The seven points allowed in the last two games is the fewest allowed in any two-game stretch by the Nittany Lions since giving up just three to Eastern Illinois and Minnesota in 2009 (3 vs. Eastern Illinois, 0 vs. Minnesota).
Penn State is tied for second in FBS in third-quarter points allowed (0.60) and is first in second-half points allowed (2.0).
At Maryland, the Nittany Lions posted their first shutout since the Georgia State game in 2017, first Big Ten shutout since 2016 (seventh overall in Big Ten play) and first of Maryland since 1970.
It was also Penn State’s largest road shutout since beating Fordham, 75-0, in 1947 and largest shutout in a Big Ten game.
Dating back to last season, Penn State has held its last seven regular season opponents to 13 points or less.
Penn State has held eight of its last nine regular-season non-conference opponents to 14 points or less, dating back to 2017.

NOT GOING ANYWHERE ON THE GROUND
Penn State is allowing just 50.6 yards rushing per game to rank third in FBS and second in the Big Ten.
Penn State is allowing just 1.46 yards per rush to lead FBS.
Penn State held Purdue to minus-19 yards rushing, the fewest rushing yards allowed by a Nittany Lion defense since holding Maryland to minus-32 in 1978.
The minus-19 yards rushing allowed is the second-lowest rushing yards allowed in an FBS game this season, trailing the minus-73 yards allowed by Michigan State against Tulsa in the season opener.
The minus-19 yards rushing is the fewest allowed by Penn State in a Big Ten game. The previous low was minus-12 yards rushing allowed to Purdue in 1998.
The minus-19 yards rushing allowed is the fifth-fewest rushing yards allowed by Penn State since 1947.
The minus-19 yards rushing allowed are the seventh-fewest given up by a Big Ten team since 2000.
Three of the five lowest rushing yard allowed totals under Franklin have been established this season, with minus-19 yards allowed to Purdue, 4 yards allowed to Idaho and 24 yards allowed to Pitt.

TOTAL DEFENSE
Penn State ranks fourth in FBS and third in the Big Ten allowing just 240.4 yards per game.
Penn State has held three opponents under 150 yards of total offense this season (145, Idaho; 128, Maryland; 104, Purdue). It’s the first time since at least 1971 that the Nittany Lions have held three opponents to less than 150 yards in a season.
Penn State joined the 2015 Michigan and 2007 Ohio State teams as the only Big Ten teams to have three games with less than 150 yards allowed in a single season since 2000.
The Nittany Lions are the first team in FBS to have held three opponents to 150 total yards or less in a single season since Boston College did so against four opponents in 2016.
The 104 yards allowed by Penn State against Purdue are the second-fewest given up by the Lions in a Big Ten game and the fewest since giving up 87 to Rutgers in 2016.

MORE DEFENSIVE FEATS
Penn State limited Purdue to eight first downs, the third time this season that the Nittany Lions have held a team to 10 or fewer first downs (5 vs. Idaho; 10 at Maryland)
The eight first downs given up against Purdue is tied for the fifth-fewest allowed by the Nittany Lions in a Big Ten game (8 vs. Iowa in 1996; 8 vs. Iowa in 2007).
The eight first downs allowed is the second-lowest allowed by Penn State in a Big Ten contest under Coach James Franklin (5 at Rutgers; 2016) and is tied for the third fewest overall allowed under Franklin.
The 68 passing yards allowed at Maryland are tied for the seventh-fewest given up by the Nittany Lions in a Big Ten game.

WILD DOGS GETTING TO THE QB
Penn State leads FBS in sacks (5.0) and tackles for loss (10.4) per game.
DE Yetur Gross-Matos leads Penn State with 5.5 sacks to rank tied for 11th in FBS and fourth in the Big Ten with 1.10 per game.
DE Shaka Toney had three sacks against Purdue, one off of his career best mark of four set at Indiana last season, and now has five this season to rank fifth in the Big Ten and 12th in FBS with 1.00 per game.

The Nittany Lions recorded 10 sacks vs. Purdue, the most for Penn State since the school record of 11 against Illinois in 1999 and the most by a Big Ten team since Ohio State had 10 sacks against Wisconsin in 2007.
The 10 sacks are tied for the most in FBS in a single game this season. (SMU and Florida).
Penn State’s 3.44 sacks per game over the last five years (2015-19) are the most in FBS.

Penn State’s 200 sacks over the last five years (2015-19 are third only to Clemson (216) and Alabama (202), the teams that have won the last four National Championships.
Over the last five years, Penn State’s defense has cumulated a 9.66 percent sack percentage (200 sacks on 2,089 plays), which ranks third behind Clemson and Michigan.

Penn State has posted four consecutive 40-plus sack seasons for the first time in program history after totaling 47 last season, 42 in 2017, 40 in 2016 and 46 in 2015.
In 2018, Penn State led the country in sacks per game (3.62) and ranked fourth and led the Big Ten in tackles for loss (8.2) per game.