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Skipping the Beaver Stadium Sidelines

Written by: on Sunday, October 9th, 2011

By BILL ALBRIGHT
WesternPAFootball.net Writer

STATE COLLEGE — Saturday’s Penn State game with Iowa had just about everything. It had both good and bad plays, good and poor decisions, and even some trickery that saw Penn State placekicker Evan Lewis pick up his first career rush on a fake field goal in the first quarter.

But after all the individual and team heroics were in the book, the result was a 13-3 Big Ten Conference PSU win over the Hawkeyes in front of a sun-drenched Beaver Stadium crowd of 103,497.

The Initial Hit — Former Williamsport High product Jacob Fagnano made his appearance on the scene on the first play of the game when he tackled Iowa kick returner Jacob Bernstine on the Iowa 20-yard line. Fagnano, along with fellow Lycoming Countian James Van Fleet (Loyalsock), play important roles on Lion special teams as well as providing depth on defense at the safety and linebacker positions.

The Urban Road — Off the field, some of the most interesting talk of the day centered around the possibility of former Florida Gator head coach Urban Meyer possibly being tabbed as the successor to JoePa when the veteran PSU mentor decides to hang up his coaching shoes. It has been reported that Meyer has been contacted by university officials about the possibility of him coming to Happy Valley. However, Meyer, who was in Happy Valley to work as a commentator on the PSU-Iowa game, made it clear that there is no truth to the rumor. Meyer is also rumored to be a possible replacement for Ohio State interim head coach Luke Fickell following the season. Stay tuned.

Effective, but not pretty: Following a defensive stand by the Lion defense on Iowa’s first possession, the Lions put the first points of the game on the board when they marched 88 yards on 18 plays, a drive that consumed more than eight minutes.

Second Quarter

The Answer: On the heels of the Nittany Lion score, the Hawkeyes came right back with an answer of their own as they marched 72 yards on dozen plays to tie the game at 3-all on a 23-yard field goal by Mike Meyer. Little did the Hawkeyes know at the time that the Meyer field goal would be the only points they would score for the game.

Made Them Happy: The entrance of Matt McGloin into the game brought a solid round of applause from the PSU crowd. Although McGloin led the Lions down the field, they had to once again be satisfied with another field goal as the two teams headed to their respective dressing rooms with the Lions holding onto a 6-3 lead.

Third Quarter

Trading Places: The two teams traded punts to begin the quarter, and on the third one, the Lions missed a golden opportunity when the Iowa return man “muffed” the punt at the Iowa 21-yard line. On the eleventh play of the Iowa possession that stalled at the Lion 41, Drew Astorino couldn’t handle what would more than likely have been a “pick six” as he jumped the route, but couldn’t come up with the ball that hit him right in the bread basket. However, Astorino more than made up for his missed opportunity as he finished yet another strong game with a team-best 11 tackles that included a pass breakup and one tackle-for-loss.

Fourth Quarter

Home Cooking: The game only featured one touchdown and that was set up when former State College High product Nate Stupar recovered a Hawkeye fumble. For the score, McGloin found Kevin Haplea wide open in the back of the end zone for the 2-yard scoring aerial. Later in the period, Haplea’s duplicate number of “10”, Malcolm Willis, intercepted a James Vandenberg pass to give the Lions the ball.

“We were basically showing a two deep shell,” explained Willis. It was almost like a robber situation when I just spin down to the middle of the field and look for anything coming down the middle. I saw the quarterback looking right at me and he threw the ball, so I made a play.”

Stupar, who is replacing injured Michael Mauti, later deflected a Vandenberg pass that was intercepted by Nick Sukay to all but put the win in the books. On Iowa’s next possession, the Hawkeyes found themselves with the transmission in reverse as they eventually were faced by a fourth-and-39 from their own 3-yard line. After the Hawkeyes were able to move out of the shadows of their own end zone, three kneel-downs by the Lions and the 13-3 win was in the books.

Defense Came Up Big: The Penn State defense grounded Iowa’s Big-Ten-Leading passing attack. With the ’Nits nursing a 6-3 lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter, linebacker Gerald Hodges sacked Vandenberg and forced the fumble that was recovered by Stupar to set up the Lions’ TD.

“Scrap let the dogs out,” said Hodges about defensive coordinator Tom Bradley‘s approach to applying pressure. “Coach Bradley was blitzing us like crazy today. Every play was a blitz and we were loving it.”

So was it fun to be on the loose on almost every play?

“Yes,” exclaimed Hodges. “Every time we go to blitz we were smiling because it was another chance for us to make a good play.”

Stupar agreed with is teammate about having fun flying around Beaver Stadium.

“We started to blitz a lot in the second half and it just happened for him to be going on that particular play,” explained Stupar. “I was showing and he (Vandenberg) quickly gave a little “hike” to see if (Hodges) was moving or not. I acted like I went so they came off on me. But, instead of going, I dropped back in coverage and all of a sudden the ball is flying out and I’m trying to go get the ball.”

Entering the game as one of the most prolific passers in the nation, Vandenberg was held to just 17 completions on 34 attempts for 169 yards, well below his per-game mark coming into the game. He was also guilty of two interceptions.

More Notes and Quotes: Silas Redd ran for a career-best 142 yards and McGloin capitalized on the fourth-quarter turnover with the touchdown pass in the 13-3 win to lead the Lion offensive unit. McGloin completed 12 of 19 attempts for 133 yards and the game’s only touchdown. For Redd, it is the third time this season he has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards. The Lions finished the game with 231 yards rushing, their second-highest total of the season. They rushed for 245 in the win over Indiana State…..For the Lions, the 13 points was the fewest in a win since they defeated Ohio State 13-6 in 2008.….When Penn State marched 88 yards to set up their first field goal, it marked the longest drive for the Lions in terms of plays (18) since they also used 18 snaps against Michigan in 2009. The three points by Iowa was the lowest total in a game played at Beaver Stadium and the fewest by an Iowa team since they lost 23-3 to Iowa State in 2005.

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