No. 17 Penn State hangs on late to edge No. 18 Iowa

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JOHN MCGONIGAL jm­c­go­ni­gal@cen­tredaily.com

Penn State started its sea­son-defin­ing stretch with some­thing to build on

The No. 17 Nit­tany Lions held on to han­dle No. 18 Iowa, 30-24, on Satur­day night at Beaver Sta­dium. Penn State (6-2) com­manded the sec­ond half, one week away from a trip to No. 5 Michi­gan with a home game against Wis­con­sin on the hori­zon.

Trace McSor­ley, who re­turned to the game af­ter sus­tain­ing a right leg in­jury, com­pleted 11 of 25 passes for 167 yards and added 63 yards on the ground, in­clud­ing a 51-yard scor­ing run. Miles San­ders contributed 62 rush­ing yards, fresh­man tight end Pat Freier­muth scored his fourth touch­down in five games, and KJ Ham­ler elec­tri­fied yet again with 96 re­ceiv­ing yards and a 67-yard re­turn.

Iowa didn’t do much of­fen­sively. Quar­ter­back Nate Stan­ley un­der­whelmed for much of the af­ter­noon, com­plet­ing 18 of 49 at­tempts for 205 yards and two interceptions. He found pro­jected first-round pick and star tight end Noah Fant 5 times for 56 yards.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Trace McSor­ley: What a gutty per­for­mance by Penn State’s lynch­pin.

McSor­ley went down with an ap­par­ent right leg in­jury in the sec­ond quar­ter. He missed two se­ries, and at one point, it didn’t look like he’d re­turn.

But boy did he. On the Nit­tany Lions’ first drive of the third quar­ter, McSor­ley scam­pered for a 51-yard touch­down run, one that set off the stu­dent sec­tion and stunned even me­dia mem­bers.

McSor­ley’s leg looked fine. And if it wasn’t, he didn’t seem to care.

STAT THAT MAT­TERED

17: That’s how many points Iowa scored on spe­cial teams in the first half.

Two safeties, two field goals and a touch­down pass from a punter to a de­fen­sive end. Yes, you read that cor­rectly.

Blake Gil­likin had a punt blocked out of Penn State’s end zone, a snap sailed over his head later in the half, and Iowa place­kicker Miguel Re­ci­nos drilled field goals of 27 and 49 yards. But what was cra­zier was a fake field goal in which punter Colten Rastet­ter lobbed a 10-yard pass to backup pass-rusher Sam Brincks, who pulled a Wil­lie Mays and caught it over-the-shoul­der.

It wasn’t the best show­ing for Penn State spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Phil Galiano, who has had a shaky in­au­gu­ral sea­son at best.

UN­SUNG HERO

Ye­tur Gross-Matos: The sopho­more de­fen­sive end is blos­som­ing into a star, and that shouldn’t be over­looked. Gross-Matos — af­ter lead­ing the Nit­tany Lions with 10 tack­les at In­di­ana — dom­i­nated yet again against the Hawkeyes with nine tack­les and four tack­les-for-loss.

Gross-Matos was one of three true fresh­men to see time last year due to his freak­ish ath­leti­cism and fa­vor­able 6-foot-5 frame. He made a few plays, but there was se­ri­ous buzz sur­round­ing him in fall camp be­cause he was, in Sha­reef Miller’s words, “play­ing faster.” The sopho­more wasn’t over­think­ing things any­more; he knew the play­book and his role in­side and out.

That showed last week­end in Bloom­ing­ton and on Satur­day against Iowa.

UP NEXT

The Big House: The Nit­tany Lions now face their tough­est test of 2018: A meeting on the road with No. 5 Michi­gan. The Wolver­ines — who had a bye this week­end — have won seven straight af­ter a sea­son-open­ing 24-17 loss to Notre Dame, which now sits No. 3 in the AP Poll. Most no­tably, Michi­gan re­cently steam­rolled Wis­con­sin and shut down Michi­gan State.

Penn State and Michi­gan’s last two meet­ings have been blowouts. Jim Har­baugh’s squad dom­i­nated in a 49-10 win in 2016, while James Franklin’s crew wrecked the Wolver­ines 42-13 last year. Ear­lier this week, Michi­gan de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Don Brown said, “I wake up ev­ery morn­ing and I think about it,” talk­ing about that 29-point de­feat.

Brown, Har­baugh and the Wolver­ines will have re­venge on their minds next Satur­day as they push to­ward a Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off berth.

PHO­TOS BY ABBY DREY adrey@cen­tredaily.com

Penn State’s Ye­tur Gross-Matos reaches to pull down Iowa’s Mekhi Sar­gent dur­ing Satur­day’s game. A week af­ter get­ting 10 tack­les at In­di­ana, Gross-Matos dom­i­nated the Hawkeyes.

Penn State’s KJ Ham­ler makes a catch as he gets knocked down by Iowa’s Geno Stone dur­ing Satur­day’s game. Ham­ler fin­ished with 96 re­ceiv­ing yards and a 67-yard re­turn.

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