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Penn State Football

Smeltzer: That was a Whooping, and a Statement Made by Penn State

Chop Robinson forces a pressure on Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara (Photo by Matt Lynch, Nittany Sports Now)

UNIVERSITY PARK— Penn State was going to make a statement at some point in 2023.

This team is just too talented not to, so it was a matter of when, not if.

Through three games, PSU had three wins, and zero collective statements.

Penn State won its season opener against West Virginia 38-15 at Beaver Stadium, but there were too many early kinks— and two too many missed field goals— for people to feel like Penn State made a statement. The next week, Penn State won 63-7 against Delaware but, well, it was against Delaware.

Penn State’s defense made a statement in its Week 3 Big Ten opener at Illinois, forcing five turnovers and picking off four passes. But offensive problems— such as having first and goal from the Illinois 2 and not scoring a touchdown— led to the game being closer than it should have been, even though Penn State ended up winning by 17. So coming into Saturday’s White Out Game against No. 24 Iowa, PSU was expected to win.

But not 31-0.

Iowa football has been the butt of many jokes in recent years— and we’ll get to why soon— but Team Ferentz was thought to be the the best squad PSU had faced thus far. Iowa came in ranked No. 24 in the country. It has a defense that had only allowed 37 points through three games. Penn State was supposed to win. But the combination of Iowa’s defense and crappy weather made the thought of Team Ferentz keeping it close with Penn State a reasonable one.

Through 30 minutes, Penn State led 10-0. Ok, so not ideal for Iowa. Especially with Penn State getting the ball to start the second half. But all Iowa needed was a stop and a score to get back in the thick of things.

Instead, Penn State scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half.

Drew Allar and company had so much fun doing that, they decided to do it again on the next possession.

Then, after Chop Robinson forced a fumble and fellow end Adisa Isaac recovered it, Penn State invaded the end zone again.

So Penn State’s first three second-half drives totaled 35 plays, 163 yards and 16:07. Iowa’s first three second-half drives totaled seven plays, -2 yards and three minutes on the dot. Now, it must be said that Iowa’s offense showed America why people laugh at it.

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz— son of head coach Kirk— and company performed so poorly in 2022 that the university added incentives to the younger Ferentz’s contract. This led to people laughing at Iowa during the offseason, too. But for as bad as Iowa’s offense was in 2022– and it was quite bad, scoring less than every Big Ten school except for Northwestern and Rutgers, which combined to go 5-19– it never got shut out.

The last time Iowa had been shut out? 2000.

Yes, Penn State made a statement, and it’s defensive dominance goes beyond just not allowing any points.

Cade McNamara came into Beaver Stadium two Novembers ago and won, throwing three touchdowns passes and no interceptions. He was playing for Michigan then, and, yes, the 2021 Big Ten champs were better than this year’s Iowa team.

But with a veteran QB that helped a team to the College Football Playoff, it wouldn’t have been crazy to think that Iowa’s offense could have done something. Instead, McNamara threw for 42 yards.

Forty-two yarrds.

Somehow, Penn State was even better against the run.

Iowa ran the ball 17 times for 20 yards.

Seventeen carries. Twenty yards. It’s hard to argue that these paltry numbers weren’t partly due to Iowa’s ineptitude.

But it might be harder to argue that Penn State doesn’t have one of college football’s best defenses.

Delaware aside, Penn State hadn’t put together a complete performance before Saturday night.

What’s encouraging for Penn State fans— and scary for the rest of the Big Ten— is that Saturday night wasn’t a complete performance, either. Remember, this team was only up 10-0 at halftime. Just imagine if Penn State’s offense played the same way in the first half as it did to the second half? Or if Allar had played the full game?

Oh, that’s another thing. Penn State played a top 25 team notorious for stout defense… and was up by enough to pull its healthy starting quarterback with 11 minutes left.

That’s called making a statement.

Maybe Iowa isn’t that good, and maybe that will lead to Penn State’s win looking less impressive over time, similar to how Penn State’s 41-12 thrashing of Auburn (also on CBS) looked less emphatic after Auburn finished 5-7.

But right now, it sure looks like a statement win, and anybody who wasn’t impressed by Penn State Saturday night either wasn’t watching the game, or simply doesn’t acknowledge what this team is capable of.

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