|Iowa 26, Penn State 14|
|October 25, 2003|
|Kinnick Stadium - Iowa City, IA|
|Kickoff Time: 12:10 p.m. EDT|
Iowa - After their bumbling performance in a loss at Purdue two weeks ago,
Penn State welcomed a bye week with
open arms. The hiatus, the Nittany Lions claimed, would allow extra time
to dig for answers to their many problems.
They're still digging.
Yesterday, Penn State was so inept and seemingly befuddled, it seemed the Nittany Lions forgot their season had resumed.
The offense, lethargic and imprecise, managed one touchdown, and that was prompted by a recovered fumble. They had a season-low 176 total yards, 38 on the ground, and were 2 for 15 on third-down conversions.
For the third consecutive game and fourth this season, Penn State's kicking game gave away a TD. And once again, a couple of big plays by the defense failed to ignite any passion or fuel any aggression.
The result was a never-in-doubt 26-14 loss to Iowa (6-2, 2-2) in a Big Ten Conference game at Kinnick Stadium.
The fourth successive loss dropped Penn State to 2-6 overall and 0-4 in the league. And if there is any hope the Nittany Lions can avoid their worst season since 1931, when they went 2-8 and their 76-year-old coach, Joe Paterno, was a 5-year-old running around the streets of Flatbush, it was not reflected in the way they looked or in the way they spoke after the Hawkeyes knocked them off for the fourth straight time.
"It's the same scenario," Paterno said.
Asked what it might take to get his team some traction, Paterno, who has a growing pack of wolves at his door howling for him to retire, shook his head.
"I've got to take a good look at the whole situation," said Paterno, who seems headed for his third losing season in the last four. "I've got to start with the organization, see how I've got people doing things, kids doing things - if the right kids are in the right spots.
"I don't know. I really don't know. I wish I could tell you. I honestly felt coming out here we had a really good shot to win it. If I had the answer... but I don't have it yet."
Later in his postgame news conference, he added, "I've got to look at this whole thing, and I'm not sure what I'm going to look at. I know I'm going to look in the mirror."
If he looks at the conference standings, Paterno will see his team locked in a tie for last place with Indiana.
"Seems like we're here saying the same thing every week," said quarterback Zack Mills, who returned after missing a month with a sprained left knee and played the last three quarters after Paterno gave starter Michael Robinson a quick hook.
Mills helped get Penn State's lone offensive TD when freshman Austin Scott took a screen pass and deked past four defenders for a 24-yard score that made it 26-14 in the third quarter. But Mills couldn't generate much else, needing 25 passing attempts to get 138 yards. In the meantime, Scott, who sat out the Purdue game with mononucleosis and has shown to be the Nittany Lions' most dangerous running threat, touched the ball only five times.
Paterno said Scott was used sparingly because he wasn't feeling 100 percent until late in the week.
At least Paterno couldn't complain about his team's field position, a problem he was quick to point out in earlier losses. Their first three possessions, the Nittany Lions started from the Iowa 40-, 49- and 46-yard lines, but had nothing to show for it.
"Our defense made plays, and we definitely should have gone up on them early," said tight end Matt Kranchik, who led the team with four catches for 64 yards.
Actually, senior safety Yaacov Yisrael did all he could to light a flame under his teammates. After ending Iowa's first possession with an interception, he gave Penn State a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter with an 83-yard run with his second interception.
Iowa came within 7-6 after linebacker Abdul Hodge recovered a fumble by Penn State's Ricky Upton on the Nittany Lions' 30-yard line and Matt Melloy caught a 2-yard scoring pass from Nathan Chandler. Defensive tackle Scott Paxson blocked the extra-point attempt, and there were the Nittany Lions with a one-point lead even though Iowa had outgained them in yardage, 184-11.
Midway through the second quarter, Ramon Ochoa caught a 3-yard TD pass from Chandler and it was 12-7 after the run for two points failed. Then came a familiar Penn State special-teams breakdown as Jermire Roberts ran a blocked punt 26 yards for a 19-7 lead early in the third quarter. A 1-yard dive by Chandler blew the Hawkeyes' lead out to 26-7.
Notes: Iowa's Fred Russell ran for 148 yards on 36 carries to become the eighth Penn State opponent to surpass 100 yards on the ground this season......Offensive tackle Damone Jones, a senior from Central High School who lost his starting job earlier in the season, did not make the trip. Paterno declined to explain Jones' absence......Receiver Josh Hannum, a redshirt freshman from Strath Haven High School, made his career debut and caught a pass for 8 yards......Senior receiver Tony Johnson, who last week was charged with driving under the influence in State College, was suspended for the game.