Iowa's poor execution magnified by Lions' defense


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A visibly frustrated Marvin McNutt did his best to maintain his usual stoicism in the aftermath of defeat.

The senior receiver offered a grounded perspective after Iowa's 13-3 loss at Penn State (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) on Oct. 8.

"We know we have a lot of things to work on and we have a lot of games left in the season," McNutt said. "You try to keep it positive even though you have a negative taste in your mouth."

Iowa (3-2, 0-1) has seven games left to play, but this bad taste might last right until it kicks off its next one against Northwestern at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Mike Meyer's 23-yard field goal in the second quarter marked Iowa's only score. The anemic 3-point output was the school's lowest in a Big Ten game since a 31-0 loss to Illinois on Oct. 14, 2000. That was Kirk Ferentz's second season as Iowa head coach, and the Hawkeyes finished 3-9.

Iowa entered Beaver Stadium boasting the Big Ten's best passing offense, at 281.2 yards per game. It left with 253 yards of total offense.

"I think it's frustrating any time you only score a field goal. We know we have to do more than that," said quarterback James Vandenberg, who finished 17-of 34 for 169 yards. His two interceptions were twice as many as he had thrown all season.

"It's just little things that we have to clean up," he said. "Missed throws, missed assignments, dropped passes, they all add up. We were just too inconsistent today, starting with my play."

In the team's first two drives, yards looked as though they would be much easier to come by. Iowa gained 119 yards on 23 plays, chewing up 10:51 of clock.

The Hawkeyes ran 41 more plays during the game, tallying only 134 yards. They crossed into Penn State territory only once in the second half.

While Vandenberg and Company noted their poor execution, they also made sure to dole out plenty of praise for the Nittany Lions' defensive showing. McNutt said they simply "brought the intensity and made plays when they needed to."

Penn State's defense is allowing 250.8 yards a game, the fourth-best mark in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"I think it was a lot more of what they were doing," Vandenberg said. "… They did a good job of mixing up coverages and taking some stuff away from us that maybe we were used to getting. Their whole defensive scheme was good, and they tackled well all day. That makes it hard."

The challenge of facing a seemingly impenetrable Nittany Lions defense — a staple of the 45-plus seasons Joe Paterno has served as head coach — was nothing new to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

Ferentz was 11 years old during Paterno's first season as Penn State head coach in 1966.

"They've been playing good defense since at least the late-60s," Ferentz said. "… They're aggressive, they're a tough group, and they really make you earn it. That's exactly what we experienced today, and we weren't good enough to finish some drives."

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