IOWA CITY, Iowa — Penn State’s defense took the field at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday night with a clear goal in mind.
“Our No. 1 focus coming into the game was to stop the run,” defensive end Pete Massaro said. “We wanted to get vertical penetration and force their running backs to make cuts. And I think we did that early and I think we had a great game as far as run defense goes.”
The statistics certainly back that up.
Penn State controlled the point of attack from start to finish, limiting Iowa to just 20 rushing yards in the Nittany Lions’ 38-14 win.
In the process, the Penn State held the Hawkeyes’ hobbled star running back, sophomore Mark Weisman, to nine yards on five carries. Weisman entered the game on a run of four-straight games with at least 100 yards rushing, a streak that was snapped by the Lions’ efforts up front.
Weisman’s playing status was uncertain for much of the week as he nursed an ankle injury suffered Oct. 13 at Michigan State, but Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz opted to play the 225-pound, Buffalo Grove, Ill. native, if only on a limited basis.
With Weisman playing at less than 100 percent, Greg Garmon got the biggest share of Iowa’s carries. He fared little better than Weisman, though, finishing with just 27 yards on eight carries, a 3.4 yards per carry average.
Linebacker Michael Mauti thought Penn State’s effort up front was key in keeping Iowa bottled up.
“It just came down to guys fitting their gaps and really just playing physical, getting off blocks,” Mauti said. “Credit our D-linemen. Jordan Hill really was playing well. He’s a monster.”
Hill, in fact, was a force to be reckoned with at his defensive tackle spot, leading the team with nine total tackles, a tackle for a loss and a sack.
Mauti was active himself, though, finishing with eight tackles and a sack. Mauti also recorded a 20-yard interception in the third quarter. Linebacker Mike Hull grabbed an interception of his own in the fourth as well.
C.J. Olaniyan and Anthony Zettel added sacks of Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg as well, part of broader Penn State success in keeping the Hawkeyes’ signal caller in the pocket all evening. Vandenberg finished with -18 yards rushing on seven attempts.
Despite his big game, though, Hill was quick to deflect credit to his defensive coordinator, Ted Roof.
“It says a lot about coach Roof, how he calls his defense,” Hill said. “And it just speaks volumes about how hard our defense plays.”
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