As of the past three years, Penn State has arguably been Iowa’s top rival coming from within the Big Ten East. Sure, there was the win over Michigan in 2016 and a demolishing of Ohio State in 2017, but nothing can really compare to three straight one-score games that tear your heart out each time.
This year, Iowa has a chance to flip the narrative for the first time since 2010, when the No. 17 ranked Hawkeyes took down the No. 22 Nittany Lions in stunning fashion, 24-3. After the past three years, Iowa is incredibly due for a takedown.
As Spencer Petras prepares to take the Happy Valley field on Saturday in a 2:30 p.m. CT kickoff vs. a stunning 0-4 Penn State team, it’s worth taking a look at the heartbreak that has ensued like clockwork every year since 2017.
2017 – Penn State 21, Iowa 19
Out of the past three losses to Penn State, this one probably hurt the worst.
The image of Penn State’s Juwan Johnson catching a pass from Trace McSorley that went right between two Hawkeye defenders in the endzone as time expired in the fourth quarter is seared into Iowa fans’ brains forever. In a Kinnick Stadium night game, no less.
It was the Akrum Wadley game. The running back ran for 80 yards on 19 attempts, caught four passes for a total of 75 yards and scored two of the three Iowa touchdowns. He also had a safety, which made the score 5-0 in the second quarter before an Iowa comeback.
It’s easy to imagine the what ifs. If that safety doesn’t happen, the game is tied at the end. Iowa missed two fourth-quarter field goals on both of Wadley’s touchdowns – even with the safety, the game is tied.
Penn State was ranked No. 4 at the time, and it was Iowa’s first loss of the season. Of course, in 2017, everyone knows what was to come, but imagining where Iowa could have been if it had taken down both Penn State and Ohio State stings a bit.
2018 – Penn State 30, Iowa 24
This loss also makes a stellar argument for being the Penn State game that hurt the most.
After Iowa had the upper hand for most of the first half – thanks to a safety 52 seconds into the game that gave it a lead – Penn State reversed the roles in the second half.
A pick-6 by Geno Stone helped Iowa being the deficit to one score to begin the fourth quarter, and Penn State kicked a field goal to make it 30-24.
Again, say hello to the what ifs. Two huge runs by Mekhi Sargent, who ran for 91 yards in the game and caught one 15-yard pass, set Iowa up in good position to score in the final five minutes of the game. One of his runs was on 3rd-and-10.
With 3:23 left in the game on Penn State’s three-yard line, a misplay by Noah Fant led to a fading pass by Nate Stanley that was caught just in front of the receiver by a Penn State defender.
Iowa had the ball with one minute left in the game, but was unable to make anything happen.
2019 – Penn State 17, Iowa 12
Iowa started out the game on top with a Keith Duncan field goal and then never led again as Penn State ran away with the game.
As was the storyline of the entire 2019 season, it seemed, Iowa had trouble finding the endzone. The score was 17-6 until Stanley finally completed a 33-yard pass to Brandon Smith to put a touchdown on the board.
This game was just bad.