Saturday's Big Ten: No. 3 Iowa beats No. 4 Penn State, fans storm field
Iowa City, Iowa — Iowa was in victory formation and the emotion was about to spill over as dusk settled over Kinnick Stadium.
Spencer Petras took the last snap, took a knee and took off, apparently thinking he could get off the field before the students and other fans pouring out of the end zone seats could catch him.
He barely made it to midfield. That’s where he and his teammates were swarmed and the mosh pit formed on the Hawkeyes logo to celebrate No. 3 Iowa’s hard-earned 23-20 victory over fourth-ranked Penn State on Saturday.
“It’s a pretty special place when the lights go on and the sun goes down,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Petras threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Nico Ragaini to complete Iowa’s comeback from a two-touchdown deficit, all accomplished while Penn State’s offense did next to nothing after quarterback Sean Clifford was knocked out of the game.
The Hawkeyes (6-0, 3-0) took control of the Big Ten West with their 12th straight victory and thrust themselves into the College Football Playoff conversation.
“This was like the biggest of the big-time, which was pretty awesome,” Ragaini said. “You don’t get moments like this every day, taking advantage of the opportunity. It was a mentally draining game for sure, and physically draining.
“On the sideline I was so emotionally drained that I almost teared up out there because we care about each other so much. We all want each other to succeed.”
An hour after the game, Ferentz choked up as he reflected on his players’ locker room celebration.
“It’s fun,” he said, pausing. “That’s what they’re supposed to do.”
Penn State (5-1, 2-1) lost for the first time in 10 games and headed back to Happy Valley with a list of injuries that could make its path through the rest of the season difficult.
“It’s just a bump in the road,” Lions defensive end Arnole Ebiketie said. “We have to get better.”
The Hawkeyes’ grinding offense isn’t built to play from behind, but it managed to come back in the biggest game at Kinnick Stadium since then-No. 1 Iowa beat then-No. 2 Michigan in 1985.
Iowa won the field-position battle thanks to the work of punter Tory Taylor, who repeatedly pinned Penn State deep in its own end after Clifford went out in the second quarter.
Iowa chipped away with field goals by Caleb Shudak to cut it to 20-16. The winning play came on the first play after the Hawkeyes got the ball at the Penn State 44 with 6:35 left.
Petras rolled to his right and found Ragaini alone on the left side. Linebacker Curtis Jacobs knocked him out of bounds, but not before he got the ball over the goal line. All-America center Tyler Linderbaum was the first man to greet him in the end zone.
Penn State coach James Franklin didn’t disclose the nature of Clifford’s injury. He was hurt with the Lions leading 17-3 when he took a big hit from linebacker Jack Campbell, and he was out of uniform on the sideline in the second half.
After Ta’Quan Roberson took over for Clifford in the middle of the second quarter, Penn State managed just 50 yards on 46 plays the rest of the way.
“We talk about all of the important statistics all of the time, and we didn’t do a good job on any of them,” Franklin said. “We did not win the field position battle, we did not win the turnover battle, we did not win the penalty battle, we didn’t win the explosive play battle.”
Five of Roberson’s series started inside the Penn State 10, and a sixth began at the 11. The sellout crowd of 70,000 had a major impact when the Lions were in their own end, their roars forcing numerous false starts as Roberson’s claps for the snap went unheard by his linemen.
On the Nittany Lions’ last three possessions, they turned over the ball on downs, Matt Hankins came up with Iowa’s fourth interception of the game and they turned it over on downs again
“We weren’t counting on the interceptions but that was a great job there,” Ferntz said. “We played physical, knocked their quarterback out – hope he’s fine. That’s the team we have.”
More Big Ten
► (At) No. 7 Ohio State 66, Maryland 17: C.J. Stroud threw five touchdowns passes, Ohio State scored on nine straight possessions and the Buckeyes steamrolled Maryland.
Stroud and the Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0) had their way with Terps. The freshman quarterback was 24 for 33 for 406 yards and threw two touchdown passes each to star wideouts Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson against a depleted Maryland secondary before taking a seat after three quarters.
Freshman TreVeyon Henderson, after managing just 17 yards rushing in the first half, finished with 102 and two touchdowns. He also caught a 26-yard TD pass in the first half.
Master Teague also had a touchdown plunge as Ohio State beat Maryland for the seventh consecutive time.
Maryland (4-2, 1-2) was routed for the second straight week. Taulia Tagovailoa, who came in the game leading the Big Ten in completion percentage, was 28 for 39 for 279 yards with two touchdowns and two late interceptions.
► Wisconsin 24, (at) Illinois 0: Chez Mellusi ran for 145 yards and a touchdown, Braelon Allen rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and John Chenal carried nine times for 38 yards and a touchdown for the Badgers.
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz was 10-of-19 passing for 100 yards with an interception. The Badgers (2-3, 1-2) outgained Illinois 491-93 yards in total offense.
Illinois starting quarterback Brandon Peters was 3-of-7 passing for 30 yards before sustaining an unknown injury while being sacked in the second quarter. Artur Sitkowski replaced him and went 8 of 27 for 55 yards for the Illini (2-5, 1-3).
Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson caught a pass in his 39th straight game, breaking the school record for consecutive games with a reception previously held by wide receiver Lee Evans, who played for the Badgers from 2000-03.