Posted by: marcmwm | November 6, 2008

The Big Analysis

Iowa offense vs. Penn State defense

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has generally fielded defenses that are smart, tough, disciplined and full of fantastic tacklers. His defenses have ranked in the nation’s top 15 in total and scoring the past four years. This year’s defense, ranked fourth in the nation allowing just 11.1 points a game, is all that and more.

It’s not just one or two guys. The Nittany Lions have 16 players with at least one tackle for loss. Nine players have an interception. Its last time out, the Lions’ defense held then-No. 9 Ohio State to 61 rushing yards, 121 below the Buckeyes’ season average. Really, there aren’t any weaknesses. The Lions’ defense is nationally ranked in rush (11th, 99.1), pass efficiency (4th, 95.9), total (6th, 265.9) and sacks (21st, 24).

Perhaps this group’s best trait is its depth. In the Michigan game, the Wolverines gashed Penn State early. Speedy Michael Mauti and Bani Gbadyu temporarily replaced Tyrell Sales and Josh Hull at linebacker, and Michigan’s offense stalled. After gaining 207 yards in their first three drives, the Wolverines managed only 87 yards in their final 11 possessions.

Bradley prefers to run a 4-3-4 and doesn’t blitz liberally. The No. 1 asset of this unit is the line, which generally can get pressure on the quarterback without blitzing.

Sophomore end Aaron Maybin has blossomed into a force and leads the team in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (15.5). Nationally, he’s third in sacks and tied for fourth in tackles for loss. He’s a smaller end, hovering at less than 250 pounds, but has superb quickness. Senior end Josh Gaines is a load at 6-1, 275 pounds and has 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.

The linebackers are solid, though not as dynamic as in recent seasons. Still, the unit has rebounded well after losing star Sean Lee to a preseason knee injury. Senior safety Anthony Scirrotto (29 tackles, five passes defended) is the leader of a retooled secondary, which is led by cornerback A.J. Wallace’s three interceptions.

Iowa’s offensive line is a bit dinged. This is not the game to be dinged. Guard Seth Olsen might return from a sprained ankle that has kept him out for two games. His replacement, Andy Kuempel, is doubtful because of a shoulder injury. Illinois ran a few successful blitzes, but four of its six sacks were from D-linemen, meaning Iowa’s OL lost a few one-on-ones.

Two huge factors last week were RB Shonn Greene’s ankle and QB Ricky Stanzi’s poise.

Greene was limited in the first quarter last week, but rebounded in the second half and finished with 103 yards and a TD. He wasn’t the dominant back he’d been the first four Big Ten games this season. That might’ve been the ankle, which first showed up against Indiana. Greene’s 21 carries were his fewest in four games and his 4.9 yards a carry, while respectable, was also his lowest of the season.

Stanzi’s 29 attempts were the second-most of his career, one shy of the 30 he put up against Northwestern. He finished 11 of 29 for 191 yards, two interceptions and a TD. His pass efficiency was 90.8, a 54.5-point dip from his then-season efficiency, 145.3, which was No. 25 in Football Bowl Subdivision.

Advantage: Penn State


Iowa defense vs. Penn State offense

Penn State’s “Spread HD” is a spread offense that isn’t tied too tightly to a run or pass philosophy. Designed by offensive coordinator Galen Hall and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, this version of the spread is incredibly balanced, with the run (226.3) and pass (233.4) averages separated by just 7 yards. The Lions are just one of three offenses in the nation that average more than 225 rushing yards and 230 passing yards.

“It could stand for ‘high definition’ or ‘highly diverse,’” Jay Paterno said before the season. “As long as it doesn’t stand for ‘huge dud.’”

Quarterback Daryll Clark, who left the Ohio State game late with a concussion, will play this week. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency (148.5). He’s completed 63 percent of his passes (second in the Big Ten) and has 11 TD passes to go against just two interceptions. He’s not a bad runner, either, averaging 4.2 yards with eight TDs.

The Lions are ranked in the nation’s top 15 in three offensive categories, including scoring at 41.8 points a game. They also lead the Big Ten in three of the four primary offensive categories (scoring, rushing and total offense).

Just as with PSU’s defense, you can’t beam in on one thing and contain the offense.

Running back Evan Royster is on the verge of becoming the school’s 12th 1,000-yard rusher in a season. He has 970 yards on 135 carries. His 7.2-yard average leads the Big Ten and is second-best among the nation’s top 30 rushers, trailing only Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux’s 7.5.

The record-setting trio of wipeouts, Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams are among the school’s top five for career receptions and will likely finish in the top 10 for career yards. With 164 career receptions, Butler needs just four to become PSU’s career leader, with Bobby Engram’s 167 in his sights this week.

Penn State’s O-line leads the Big Ten with just seven sacks allowed in nine games, tying for fourth nationally. Four members of the line are in their second year of starting together. The O-line has 125 starts among them, led by center A.Q. Shipley, who has 35 starts.

The most impressive stat for PSU’s Spread HD is its performance in the red zone, inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Lions have scores in 44 of their 47 red zone possessions, with an incredible 33 TDs. The Lions lead the Big Ten and are tied for third nationally at 93.6 percent in the red zone.

Iowa’s defense is having an impressive season. The stats are great — with scoring defense (13.2), rushing defense (100.7) and total defense (301.6) all ranked in the nation’s top 25. The Hawkeyes’ 16 interceptions lead the Big Ten and are No. 3 in the nation. It’s the most interceptions by an Iowa team since 17 in 2004. Nine different Hawkeyes have interceptions.

The Hawkeyes have faced down some of the Big Ten’s and nation’s best running backs, including Pitt’s LeSean McCoy, Michigan State’s Javon Ringer and Wisconsin’s P.J. Hill. The only running back to dent the Hawkeyes for 100 yards? Maine’s Jhamal Fluellen went for 104 yards on 21 carries in the opener.

Tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul have been as good as advertised. King is seventh in the league with 11 tackles for loss. The two biggest surprises have been middle linebacker Pat Angerer (four interceptions, 10.4 tackles a game) and cornerback Amari Spievey, who has three interceptions.

Advantage: Even

Special teams

No relief here, Hawkeyes. The Lions are also loaded on special teams.

Derrick Williams has returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns and averages 31.0 yards per kick return and 9.7 a punt return. Williams’ five career kick TDs are the most in Joe Paterno’s 43 seasons at the school. Kicker Kevin Kelly has made 7 of 8 field goal attempts, with his miss from 60 yards. Punter Jeremy Boone is solid with a 42.0-yard average.

Every point counted for the Hawkeyes in last week’s 27-24 defeat at Illinois, so freshman kicker Trent Mossbrucker’s miss of a 30-yarder stands out. But the first-year player still finished the day 3 of 4 and has now made 13 of 15 field goals this season. The miss also snapped his streak of nine straight. Thirty of Ryan Donahue’s 37 punts this season have either been fair caught or downed inside the opponent’s 20. After a few quiet weeks, punt returner Andy Brodell popped one for 20 yards last week.

Advantage: Penn State


Today will be Penn State coach Joe Paterno’s fifth game in the press box because of a sore hip and right leg. PSU is able to pull this off because Paterno has a veteran staff that knows what it’s doing. Penn State’s assistants combine for more than 200 years of coaching experience. Dick Anderson, who coaches interior offensive linemen, has spent 31 seasons under Paterno. Tom Bradley has coached at Penn State for 30 seasons, the last nine as defensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has been there for 13. Offensive coordinator Galen Hall joined Paterno in 2004, but he has 31 years of collegiate coaching experience total, including a head coaching stint at Florida in the 1980s.

The Lions’ focus and desire is clearly fueled by this staff.

The coaching never seems to stop for Kirk Ferentz and his staff. The rash of turnovers and red zone futility that plagued the Hawkeyes in their first two Big Ten losses? They went away for a couple games, but returned with a vengeance in last week’s loss at Illinois. Three turnovers doomed quarterback Ricky Stanzi. The Hawkeyes managed just one TD in five trips inside Illinois’ 20. Sometimes, this feels like plate spinning for Iowa. Something breaks every week.

Advantage: Penn State




  1. Can’t argue with this at all, though I was hoping I could as I knew exactly what I was going to read.

    They’re tough and well coached. Hopefully the team watched the Big Ten Network last night and saw the ’02 game. What a team. That replay was fun to watch.

  2. Guys, as an Iowa Grad, I am a true back and gold bleeder but I knew that this game was lost when the start was changed to 2:30 pm and the game became the national game on ABC. Under Kirk Ferentz, the Hawkeyes are horrible on ABC in the 2:30 time slot, and in fact, may not have won in this time slot at all. They have won very few, (if any) regular season games in his tenure that was not an 11:00 am start time. Chalk up the Minnesota game as a loss as well unfortunately and plan on a long cold winter. Not trying to be a downer, just a realist that looks at the numbers, and in case, they do not lie. Sorry

  3. Watch part of the replay too last night. Great game. Is it just me or did our receivers back then(CJ Jones, Mo Brown, Old man Ed Hinkel) look much more athletic than they do now? No offense to Andy B, as he has been pretty consistent this year.

  4. We haven’t had WR’s with that size and toughness since them, not even close.

    CJ and Mo Brown were studs. Ed was Ed, solid as a rock.

    Trivia- who sang solid as a rock and what year? Shouldn’t be trivia as I can’r remember right now either.

    Marc, check your IPod and get back to us, thanks…. (:

  5. Was it the Pointer Sisters, E???

    Jim, just off the top of my head, I think Iowa has won a few 2:30 games, at Purdue in either ’04 of ’05 comes to mind. Then, I think ’04 Purdue and Wisconsin at Kinnick. What time was ’05 Wisconsin? I know those were all wins, but I’m not 100 percent that they were 2:30. I remember darkness, so I think maybe.

    TC, I can’t disagree with your thought. Iowa’s WR corps needs some refinement. I’ve got a story I think in Gameday this week about the drop off after Brodell and DJK (whose numbers are OK, just tailing off hard the last four games). Stross has been hurt. Sandeman, Chaney and Paine have been invisible. It’s a unit that clearly needs development. BUT, I’ll say this, the way the Hawkeyes have used the TE lately, you can make an argument that they are the Nos. 2 (Brandon Myers, who I think has a legit shot to play in the NFL) and 3 (Allen Reisner, quickly becoming a Brandon Myers but with better hands) receivers.

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