Saturday’s Big Ten: Late interception dooms Iowa in loss to Penn State

Andrew Seligman
Associated Press
Penn State's Robert Windsor sacks Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley.

State College, Pa. — Nick Scott intercepted a pass to thwart Iowa at the Penn State 2 with 3:18 left and the No. 17 Nittany Lions held on to avoid a third straight home loss with a 30-24 victory Saturday over the No. 18 Hawkeyes.

Penn State (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) needed one last defensive stand to hold off Iowa (6-2, 3-2), which drove to the Nittany Lions 44 with less than a minute left.

On fourth-and-10 with 7 seconds left, Penn State’s pass rush swarmed Nate Stanley, who flipped backward to offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. The 300-pounder rumbled 15 yards before being dragged down with no time left.

It was a fitting end to an odd game with little sustained offense on a chilly and rainy day. Iowa scored two safeties and a touchdown pass by punter Colten Rastetter to defensive tackle Sam Brincks on a faked field goal in the first half, and got a pick-six in the second half. Penn State played three series in the second quarter without starting quarterback Trace McSorley.

“Gutsy win,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “It was a beautiful day in Happy Valley, I would describe it.”

McSorley was sandwiched by two Hawkeyes defenders as he tried to scramble and stayed down, grabbing his right leg. The Beaver Stadium crowd fell silent as athletic trainers attended to the senior. He got up with assistance and had help to take a few steps before walking off on his own with a limp. The 6-foot, 202-pound McSorley has started 35 straight games for Penn State since the start of the 2016 season.

Tommy Stevens played the next two series at quarterback for Penn State, scoring on a 3-yard run that was set up by John Reid’s 41-yard interception return. Stevens led a short drive late in the first half to set up Jake Pinegar’s career-best 45-yard field goal to make it 17-all at the break. Pinegar bested that with a 49-yarder in the third quarter and made a 44-yard in the fourth after being 0 for 3 from 40 and beyond coming into the game. McSorley went back in for one series in the first half and Penn State went three-and-out.

Franklin said he planned to start the second half with Stevens, but McSorley convinced the coach he was good to go.

“Trace has earned the right to tell us if he thinks he can go,” Franklin said. “I said: ‘Look I need to the whole package. I can’t just have a pro-style quarterback. I got to have more than that.’”

McSorley delivered. On Penn State’s first possession of the second half, he broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run to give the Nittany Lions their first lead, 24-17, with 12:10 left in the third quarter.

Penn State turnovers in the fourth quarter kept Iowa in the game, despite a poor day from Stanley, who was 18 for 49 for 205 yards and two interceptions.

Geno Stone intercepted McSorley’s pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-24 with 10 minutes left in the fourth.

Trailing 30-24, Iowa and Stanley converted two third-and-longs to get to first-and-goal at the 3 with 3:30 left. But Stanley’s next throw was a quick pass toward star tight end Noah Fant, who was not looking.

“I was just trying to change the play based on the look that they gave us,” Stanley said. “I just tried to rush it with the play clock running down. I just should have taken the timeout.”

Scott jumped up and made the interception.

(At) Northwestern 31, No. 20 Wisconsin 17: Clayton Thorson ran for two touchdowns and threw for one, and the Big Ten West-leading Wildcats (5-3, 5-1) moved 11/2 games ahead of the Badgers (5-3, 3-2) and gained some revenge for a loss at Camp Randall Stadium early last season that helped keep them out of the conference championship game.

With quarterback Alex Hornibrook missing the game because of a concussion and the defense without several injured starters, it was simply a rough afternoon for Wisconsin. Northwestern turned two fumbles by star running back Jonathan Taylor and another by quarterback Jack Coan into 17 points on the way to its fourth straight victory.

Thorson was a bit shaky again after struggling in a narrow win at Rutgers. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 167 yards with three interceptions against a short-handed defense. But he ran for two TDs in the first half and found Kyric McGowan for a 24-yard score in the third quarter.

Isaiah Bowser ran for 117 yards and a touchdown. He scored on a 2-yard run early in the fourth, making it 31-10 after Coan fumbled deep in Badgers territory.

Coan was 20-of-31 for 158 yards and a touchdown in his first career start.

Taylor, the nation’s leading rusher, ran for just 46 yards on 11 carries after finishing with 100 or more in eight straight games.

Garrett Groshek ran for 68. But the Badgers lost for the second time in three games.

Northwestern was leading 14-10 early in the third when Wisconsin’s Jack Sanborn got flagged for roughing the punter. That set up Thorson’s TD pass to McGowan in the back of the end zone.

Taylor then lost his second fumble of the game when Paddy Fisher poked the ball out as he was tackled and Montre Hartage recovered at the Wisconsin 42. That led to a 26-yard field goal by Charlie Kuhbander, making it 24-10 with 2:39 left in the quarter.

The Wildcats added to their lead early in the fourth after Coan dropped the ball on a fake handoff, picked it up, scrambled and fumbled again. Bowser’s 2-yard run made it 31-10.

With a chance to move into first place in the division, the Badgers simply came out flat. The offense struggled to move the ball without Hornibrook, and the turnovers didn’t help.

The Wildcats will take a more lopsided victory after needing overtime to beat then-winless Nebraska and squeezing past Rutgers by three.

(At) Nebraska 49, Bethune-Cookman: Adrian Martinez passed for 213 yards and two touchdowns and Devine Ozigbo ran for 110 and another score – all in the first half – and Nebraska prepped for next week’s road game against Ohio State.

A month ago, Nebraska was in the middle of its 0-6 start and coming off a 46-point loss at Michigan. Last week’s win over Minnesota and the fast work they did against the Wildcats of the Football Championship Subdivision have lifted the Huskers’ spirits heading into their trip to the “Horseshoe” to face the 11th-ranked Buckeyes, who were off Saturday after losing at Purdue last week.

“I think we’re a more disciplined team, a more efficient team right now,” coach Scott Frost said. “Hopefully, with the last two wins, it will make us a more confident team. We’ve got to go on the road to a tough place to play a really good team that’s going to be ticked off and has had two weeks of practice since their last game that didn’t go well for them. We know what we’re in for. We’re going to get their best shot.”

The Cornhuskers (2-6) scheduled Bethune-Cookman (4-5) a month ago as a replacement for the Sept. 1 opener against Akron that was canceled because of severe weather. The Wildcats earned an $800,000 guarantee.

“I’m appreciative of them for coming, and I think it was great for both teams,” Frost said. “It was the type of game we needed. I’m sure the amount of money we’re paying for them to come up is something they needed. I think both teams came out of the game really healthy, which is what both coaches wanted. I think it was a win-win for everybody.”

Stanley Morgan caught seven passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns and JD Spielman ran back a punt 77 yards for a touchdown and had five receptions for 72 yards.

Nebraska’s offensive starters turned the game over to the backups to start the second half. Most of the regulars on defense played the first two B-C possessions of the third quarter. A total of 74 players got on the field for the Huskers.

Bethune-Cookman started David Israel at quarterback in place of Akevious Williams, who left last week’s game against North Carolina A&T with a knee injury. Israel was 12 of 27 for 196 yards and two interceptions. Jabari Dunham led the Wildcats’ 10-play, 82-yard touchdown drive that Alfred Adams finished with a 5-yard run as time expired.

“We’re definitely appreciative of the opportunity to have a chance to come to Nebraska and play in a historic venue such as Memorial Stadium and play a program like Nebraska,” B-C coach Terry Sims said. “I don’t think we played our best. But the outcome is what it is. We had some guys that left it on the field today, played their hearts out.”

(At) Maryland 63, Illinois 33: Javon Leake rushed for three touchdowns and scored on a 97-yard kickoff return, and Kasim Hill had the best passing game of his career.

Leake is the first Maryland player to score four TDs in a game since D.J. Adams in the 2010 Military Bowl. Leake, a sophomore, finished with 140 yards rushing, including scores of 64, 27 and 43 yards.

The victory left the Terrapins (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) one win short of becoming bowl eligible, no small feat for a team that was rocked by the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair and is playing under interim coach Matt Canada since August.

Reggie Corbin ran for 155 yards and a touchdown for the Fighting Illini (3-5, 1-4). Illinois had yielded 158 points during a three-game skid, and its streak of forcing a turnover in 21 consecutive games came to an end.