No. 17 Penn State beat No. 18 Iowa on Saturday, 30-24. It’s an important result, because it costs Iowa control of its own destiny in the Big Ten West and even the Playoff race.
But the main thing anyone should know about this game is how weird it was. Let’s recount.
1. Iowa scored on an extremely cool trick play in the first quarter.
275-pound defensive end Sam Brincks catching a Willie Mays-style touchdown on a throw from the holder on fourth-and-10 was great:
But consider the delightful trickery that went into it:
The offense needs to have five linemen on the field who wear numbers from 50 through 79. Those linemen are not eligible to catch a pass, even if they’re on the end of the line.
But in this formation, Iowa can get innovative. Brincks wears No. 90, and while he has the physical build of an O lineman, there’s nothing in the rules that says he can’t run out to catch a pass as long as he’s uncovered on the line. And before the snap, Iowa has a “receiver,” who’s really placekicker Miguel Recinos, lined up off the line.
So, Brincks could run free, even though Penn State might have thought he was just a regular offensive tackle, ineligible to get the ball.
2. Penn State gave up two safeties on punts.
Those safeties led to the game having odd scores. At points, it was:
- Iowa, 2-0
- Iowa, 5-0
- Iowa, 12-0
- Iowa, 12-7
And the score would’ve stayed weird if the second safety hadn’t worked with an Iowa field goal and the first safety to combine for a touchdown’s worth of points.
3. Iowa’s mascot got hit in the nuts with a pass.
4. The whole ending sequence was unusual, right up until a giant Iowa offensive lineman tried to run for a buzzer-beating TD.
With a little more than three minutes left in a game that had see-sawed all afternoon, the Hawkeyes were primed to take the lead. They trailed by 6 but had driven 72 yards, from their own 25 to the Penn State 3, where they had first-and-goal to go. Nate Stanley tried to throw a screen pass to Toren Young, but he got too much air under it, and:
The Iowa defense stood up after that, though, getting the Nittany Lions to punt after five plays, 24 yards, three Iowa timeouts, and 1:55 of clock time. Stanley got the ball back at his own 23 with 1:23 to play, gifted a second (but more difficult) chance to win the game.
On Iowa’s last drive, a curious replay reversal wiped out an 18-yard throw from Stanley to T.J. Hockenson that would’ve given Iowa a decent scoring opportunity. Stanley ran for a first down to Penn State’s 44 on the next play, but the Hawkeyes were running short of time and downs by the last play of the game. As Stanley got sacked, he dished the ball to 320-pound offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs, who ran 15 yards before getting gang-tackled: