STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Every blitz call into the defensive huddle had Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges eager with anticipation. Clinging to a three-point lead in the fourth quarter, Hodges and the rest of the Nittany Lions turned up the pressure to throttle Iowa’s best-in-the-Big Ten passing attack. Hodges forced a momentum-swinging fumble that set up Matt McGloin’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass, and Silas Redd ran for 142 yards Saturday to help Penn State pound the Hawkeyes 13-3.
“Every time we got a blitz (call) were on the field ‘cheesing’ because you knew it was just another opportunity to make a good play,” Hodges said before being interrupted to give the definition of “cheesing.” “I mean we were out there smiling,” he said with a grin. “We knew it was another chance to make a play out there on the blitz.”
Did they ever — five sacks total on the afternoon, including three consecutive blows on battered Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg in the fourth quarter to push the Hawkeyes to a 4th-and-39 on their own 1.
Iowa’s three-game winning streak against Penn State (5-1, 2-0) came to a halt, and the Hawkeyes (3-2, 0-1) lost their conference opener after a bye last week.
The Hawkeyes’ no-huddle scheme was a no-go in Happy Valley.
They were held to 253 yards of total offense, 168 below their season average. The only points came off Mike Meyer’s 23-yard field goal in the second quarter after averaging nearly 38 points coming into Saturday.
“They definitely picked it up during the second half. We were never just able to bust a big play on them,” Vandenberg said about Linebacker U. He finished 17 of 34 passing for 169 yards and two fourth-quarter interceptions to go with his late fumble.
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 August 7.
Paterno said he nearly got run over again at one point Saturday, and his sidestepping moves left him sore.
“I don’t want those kids looking around to see where I am,” Paterno said. “So I told them at halftime, you guys are doing all right, let’s turn it up a notch and (I’ll ) get out of here and out of your hair.”
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.
Ferentz, who grew up in suburban Pittsburgh, wasn’t surprised by Penn State’s pressure.
“They’ve been playing good defense since the 60’s,” he said. “I think the key is they make you earn things, they’re aggressive, they’re a tough group. That’s exactly what we experienced today.”
Coach Joe Paterno opted to go with the ground game after the fumble recovery, rotating touches for Redd (28 carries total), bruising backup tailback Curtis Dukes (60 yards on nine carries) and fullback Joe Suhey before McGloin found Haplea for a TD. The sophomore tight end exchanged leaping high-fives with teammates as blue-and-white fans frolicked in the stands on a picture-perfect sunny afternoon. Not only did the TD give Penn State a 10-point lead, but Haplea also scored his first career touchdown.
It only got worse from there for Iowa.
Safeties Malcolm Willis and Nick Sukay each picked off Vandenberg down the stretch.
Penn State finished off Iowa with consecutive sacks by Sean Stanley and Devon Still before Khairi Fortt and Eric Latimore shared the credit on another sack.
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.
“We didn’t have a lull in any part of the game. I thought we played the whole game hard,” defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. “I sensed they were going to finish this game off one way or another.”
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 passing for 133 yards, while Bolden was 3 of 7 for 31 yards.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)