Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, left, talks with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz before an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Gene Puskar)
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Iowa’s Big Ten-best aerial attack grounded to a halt in Happy Valley.
Three fourth-quarter turnovers and withering Penn State pressure shut down the Hawkeyes offense in a 13-3 loss Saturday.
The Nittany Lions running game wore down the defense on a physical drive that turned a three-point deficit into a 10-point hole following Kevin Haplea’s 2-yard touchdown catch with 8:08 remaining.
After winning of eight of nine against Penn State since 2000 — including three straight entering Saturday — the Hawkeyes got rolled over by Linebacker U.
“The credit goes to them. We couldn’t get into a flow because of them,” quarterback James Vandenberg said. “They gave us different looks, dropped pressure from different places and we didn’t really get the run game established as much as we wanted to.”
Vandenberg didn’t fare that well, either.
He fumbled the ball away after getting sacked by Gerald Hodges, setting up Haplea’s touchdown catch.
Then with Iowa in desperation mode, Vandenberg threw two interceptions over the last seven minutes, one each by Penn State safeties Malcolm Willis and Nick Sukay. Penn State never let up, sacking Vandenberg three straight plays with less than three minutes left to push Iowa to a 4th-and-39 from their 1.
“We weren’t good enough to finish some drives, then obviously in the second half, we couldn’t get much going,” coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Iowa had come into the game averaging nearly 38 points and 281 passing yards a game.
Instead the Hawkeyes were held to their lowest point total in a Big Ten game since getting shut out by Illinois in 2000 — though Ferentz said he wasn’t panicking when asked if his offense was in a crisis.
“Crisis? That’s like a tsunami or a hurricane or a tornado,” he said. “Nobody got killed out there, I don’t think. I think we’re safe.”
Silas Redd ran for 142 yards and Matt McGloin capitalized on the fourth-quarter turnover with his touchdown pass to Haplea.
As was the case the previous two weeks, Joe Paterno coached the first half from the sideline before retreating to the press box after halftime. The 84-year-old Hall of Famer is getting over a sore right shoulder and pelvis suffered when receiver Devon Smith accidentally ran into him at practice Aug. 7.
It was the Hawkeyes absorbing the big blows on Saturday.
Iowa seemingly regained momentum in the tense affair after Micah Hyde intercepted a poor throw by McGloin in the end zone on third-and-5 from the 6, thwarting what had been a nice drive that started the Nittany Lions 4.
But as it has all season, Penn State’s defense came through again.
Hodges got to Vandenberg on the blitz on third-and-7 from the Penn State 45, forcing a fumble that had the 105,00-plus fans rocking creaky Beaver Stadium.
Vandenberg finished 17 of 34 for 169 yards, while tailback Marcus Coker had 74 yards on 18 carries.
Paterno opted to go with the ground game after the fumble recovery, rotating carries for Redd, bruising backup tailback Curtis Dukes (60 yards on nine carries) and fullback Joe Suhey before McGloin found Haplea for a TD.
Anthony Fera’s two first-half field goals made up for more early red zone hiccups for Penn State, which again rotated McGloin and Rob Bolden at quarterback with middling results.
McGloin again looked a little better and finished 12 of 19 for 133 yards, while Bolden was 3 of 7 for 31 yards.