Iowa football

Trace McSorley leads No. 4 Penn State's thrilling last-second comeback win in Iowa

Trace McSorley leads No. 4 Penn State's thrilling last-second comeback win in Iowa


IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was happening like it had so often in the past.

A once-sluggish Iowa team had come to life in the fourth quarter at home under the lights, and another top-five opponent was set to go down.

Trace McSorley, Juwan Johnson and the resilient Nittany Lions flipped the script, scoring on the game's final play to survive a wild Big Ten opener.

Johnson caught a seven-yard TD pass as time expired and fourth-ranked Penn State rallied to stun Iowa 21-19 Saturday night.

Saquon Barkley had 211 yards rushing and 94 yards receiving for the Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0), who outgained Iowa 579-273 but nearly blew a game that could've been crippling to their postseason hopes.

"Felt like with (Johnson) we had a height advantage and we could slip him through the middle of the field," Penn State coach James Franklin said of the winning play.

Akrum Wadley had a 70-yard TD reception midway through the fourth quarter and a 35-yard touchdown run with 1:42 left to put the Hawkeyes (3-1, 0-1) ahead 19-15.

Penn State went 80 yards on 12 plays and just 1:42 to close out the game, and McSorley found Johnson in a crowded end zone on fourth down.

McSorley finished with 284 yards passing on 48 tries.

Wadley had 80 yards rushing and 75 yards receiving and Nate Stanley threw for 191 yards and two TDs for Iowa.

"It's a tough loss for all of us," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "You can see first-hand why they were the Big Ten champs last year."

The takeaway
Penn State: Michigan came into Iowa City in a similar spot a year ago and lost 14-13, so the Nittany Lions should be happy they avoided a loss that would've erased their margin of error as far as the playoffs were concerned. Barkley was unstoppable and Penn State's defense was brilliant. But the Nittany Lions didn't do a ton in the passing game until the final drive — when McSorley's final pass was right on the money.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes' defense, led by preseason All-American linebacker Josey Jewell, played its heart out. Wadley then put Iowa in position to make a major statement nationally, but the Nittany Lions simply made one more play than they did. "This game sucks. But you've got to move on," Jewell said.

Poll implications
Third-ranked Oklahoma struggled with a winless Baylor on the road, and Iowa is clearly better than the Bears. But it's unclear if Penn State did enough to leapfrog the Sooners — who have a win over Ohio State.

Saquon's brilliance
Penn State faced a 3rd-down-and-6 up just 15-13 midway through the fourth quarter. McSorley threw a swing pass to Barkley, who was pinned to the sideline. But Barkley charged up the field, leapt over a Hawkeyes defender and got the first down -- keeping alive a drive that burned the clock. "The big difference in the game was that running back. He's a phenomenal player," Ferentz said. Barkley also caught 12 passes.

The numbers
Penn State ran 99 plays. Iowa had just 45. ...Stanley has thrown for 12 touchdowns against just one interception in his first four starts. ...Johnson finished with 92 yards on seven catches. ...Penn State gained 29 first downs, while Iowa had just 11.

He said it
"I cannot imagine there is a better player in all of college football. The guy is special," Franklin said of Barkley.

Up next
Penn State hosts Indiana on Saturday.

Iowa plays at Michigan State next weekend.

No. 20 Penn State vs. Iowa: Nittany Lions try to extend winning streak to 5

No. 20 Penn State vs. Iowa: Nittany Lions try to extend winning streak to 5

Penn State (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten) vs. Iowa (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten)
Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa.
Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Scouting Penn State
Saquon Barkley rushed for a career-high 207 yards as PSU rolled to a 62-24 victory at Purdue last week. It was the Lions’ most points in a game since they piled up 66 against Coastal Carolina in the 2008 opener, and their most in a Big Ten game since they generated 63 against Illinois in 2005. Barkley, who eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the second time in three games, leads the Big Ten with 888 yards on the ground.

Winners of their last four games, the Lions are No. 12 in the season's first College Football Rankings and jumped from 24th to 20th in the Associated Press poll. They entered the Coaches poll for the first time since 2011, at No. 23.

Quarterback Trace McSorley, who turned the ball over six times during PSU’s 2-2 start, has not coughed it up at all the last four games, having thrown 106 straight passes without an interception.

Scouting Iowa
Iowa was limited to 236 yards and held without a touchdown for the first time this season while losing last Saturday to Wisconsin, 17-9.

The Hawkeyes boast two gifted backs in Akrum Wadley (636 yards, eighth most in the Big Ten) and LeShun Daniels (624, 10th), but are just ninth in the Big Ten in rushing offense (167.9) and 12th in total offense (348.1).

Iowa is, however, good in the red zone on offense and defense, and has allowed the 16th-fewest points in the FBS (18.9 per game). The Hawkeyes are also plus-seven in turnover margin, which is 12th-best nationally. They have also allowed 20 sacks, the fourth most in the conference.

Iowa has won its last nine on the road, and five of its last seven in Beaver Stadium.

Penn State leads the all-time series 13-12 and has won the two most recent meetings, in 2011 and ’12.

Storyline to watch
Iowa is always solid and steady. The Hawkeyes have also wrecked PSU’s season before, notably handing it a 24-23 loss after the Lions won their first nine games in 2008.

What’s at stake
There are scenarios under which the Lions might make the Rose Bowl, should they win their last four games. Other gurus have them going to the Outback Bowl. Either way, there is a lot riding on the final month of their season.

Penn State 28, Iowa 20