STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Despite the new carpet and windows, faster elevators and some fresh paint, Beaver Stadium’s press box still shakes and rattles when Penn State is rolling.
It swayed early and often on Saturday night as the No. 20 Nittany Lions hammered Iowa 41-14 in front of more than 106,000 fans, buzzing with Top 25 football back in Happy Valley.
An even bigger face lift has come on the field, where Penn State’s offense looks nothing like the woeful units that sputtered in James Franklin’s first two years. This group, led by the twin rushing attack of Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley, is on fire.
”If you want to stop the run and you come at me, you give Trace an opportunity to beat you with his feet and if you try to stop us both, you give him a chance to beat you on the outside in the passing game,” Barkley said.
Barkley accounted for 211 all-purpose yards, scored two touchdowns and McSorley completed 11 of 18 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. McSorley added 40 rushing yards and another score on 14 carries for the Nittany Lions, who won their fifth straight Big Ten game for the first time since 2011.
The Nittany Lions (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten, No. 12 CFP) scored on seven of 11 possessions and kept the pressure on after leading 24-7 at halftime.
”I think as you guys know, we spent a lot of time in the offseason studying different schemes, different offenses,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. ”This is kind of how we envisioned it, and obviously when you’ve got a guy like Saquon Barkley, he changes things for everybody.”
Barkley scored on a 57-yard run in the first half and caught a 44-yard touchdown pass in the second. Receiver Saeed Blacknallalso caught a touchdown for the Nittany Lions and Tyler Davis kicked two field goals as the Nittany Lions became bowl-eligible.
Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens, himself a vaunted runner who competed with McSorley for the starting job in training camp, got in on the action. He capped the game with a 13-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep, capping it by blasting his way through two defenders at the goal line.
C.J. Beathard completed 18 of 26 passes for 204 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Hawkeyes (5-4, 3-3). He was sacked four times. Running back Akrum Wadley caught a touchdown for Iowa and Jerminic Smith hauled in another with 6:30 to play, but it was too little, too late.
”They’re a completely different team than they were in September,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
THIRD DOWNS A CHARM
The Nittany Lions entered the game converting just 25.2 percent of their third downs. They completed 7 of 14 in this one and gave Iowa’s offense fits in the same situations.
The Hawkeyes converted just 2 of 10 third downs and linebacker Jason Cabinda set the tone early. On third-and-2, Beathard kept the ball and tried to leap over a pile. Cabinda met him in midair, knocking him backward where fellow linebacker Brandon Bell finished him off.
The Hawkeyes entered the game boasting a nice two-headed rushing attack of their own. Wadley and LeShun Daniels had shared reps with good results. They combined for three 100-plus yard performances apiece over the last three games but were held to a combined 46 by Penn State’s aggressive front seven.
Iowa finished with 30 rushing yards altogether on 26 carries.
”We talked about how physical this game was going to be up front, I think we’ve proved that we can match up with people,” Franklin said. ”Holding that team to 30 yards rushing? (That’s) big time. Big time.”
Penn State: The Nittany Lions look like a completely different team than the one that began the season. The offense is clicking, the defense is formidable and the schedule should be relatively easy the rest of the way. Penn State’s remaining opponents are a combined 9-18 and only Indiana has a winning record.
Penn State’s well-rounded play coupled with losses bodes well for their chances to move up a few spots.
Penn State: Plays at Indiana (5-4, 3-3) where the Nittany Lions are 7-1.