Penn State Football Pitches Shutout Against Iowa

Penn State football’s defense forced five turnovers against Illinois last week, a performance that, at the time, seemed perfect. This week, that same defense showed what perfect really is.

Penn State held Iowa to just 33 plays and 14:33 of possession while forcing four turnovers in the Nittany Lions’ 31-0 win over the Hawkeyes in the 2023 edition of the White Out. Iowa managed only four first downs during the outing and had eight straight drives that lasted three plays or less. During that stretch of eight drives, three of them ended with negative yardage.

Franklin credited defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with the defensive improvements. Diaz, in his second year at the position, is known for generating turnovers. But recently, Penn State has been on another level.

“Manny is doing a great job,” Franklin said after the game. “He’s doing a great job from both a big picture and leadership perspective, but also gets everybody to understand how you really play defensive football.”

Last week, Penn State forced and recovered one fumble while wracking up four interceptions. Saturday, the Nittany Lion defense wasn’t able to pick off Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara but instead recovered three fumbles. Across four games, Penn State has generated 11 turnovers and given up none.

Even though two of the fumble recoveries came in the second half, defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton says he knew from the beginning that it was going to be another special night.

“From the very first drive, I think we knew,” Dennis-Sutton said. “Once we got to halftime, as a defensive line and as a defense, it felt like it should be a shutout.”

Saturday’s performance was much more than a shutout, though. Penn State allowed only 76 yards against Iowa, the tenth-fewest in program history. The four first downs allowed was good enough for the fourth-fewest in program history.

Iowa ran just three plays from Penn State territory, all of them coming on the Hawkeyes’ second drive of the game that started from the Penn State 48-yard line. For comparison, when Penn State played Delaware, an FCS opponent, the Blue Hens crossed the 50-yard line twice.

The standout performance from the Nittany Lions defensive line came from the likes of defensive end Chop Robinson. Robinson recorded a sack, a tackle-for-loss, two quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble during his dominant performance.

“He’s just an overall good player,” defensive end Adisa Isaac said following the game Saturday. “Once you take the thought out of it, you start to fly around way faster and make more plays. I feel like that’s what he’s doing.”

While Isaac praised his teammate, he also had an impact on the stat sheet Saturday with a sack, a tackle-for-loss, and a quarterback hurry. Isaac likened this year’s Nittany Lion defense to that of the 2019 team’s defense and said that performances like this don’t happen very often.

“It feels good,” Isaac said. “It’s a great feeling to stress somebody out and take away their whole playbook.”

Penn State’s fortnight of defensive excellence comes after a slow start to the season where it allowed 308 total yards against West Virginia. Robinson knows that the defense has flipped a switch during the last two weeks, and he believes it started with Diaz’s pregame speech before Illinois.

“Coach Diaz’s message was to just have fun,” Robinson said. “Once everybody started doing that, you just started to see turnovers happening and everybody celebrating together. You just started to see the chemistry and the brotherhood that we have.”

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About the Author

CJ Doebler

CJ is a junior double majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. He is from Northumberland, Pa, just east of State College. CJ is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan, but chooses to ignore the Pirates' existence. For the occasional random retweet and/or bad take, follow @CDoebler on Twitter. All complaints can be sent to [email protected].

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