By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football put on a show Saturday night, utilizing a balanced attack to take down a physical Iowa team in front of more than 106,000 fans at Beaver Stadium.
Scoring 41 points, the Nittany Lions racked up 599 yards of total offense, the most since logging 661 yards against Rutgers in 1995 and the highest total in a Big Ten outing since a 653-yard performance against Michigan State in 1994. It is also the third-highest total in a Big Ten game in program history.
The Nittany Lions have now won their last five games, in addition to moving to 6-0 at home in Beaver Stadium this year. During the five-game wining streak, Penn State is averaging 476.2 yards per game in the same span and has totaled at least 500 yards of total offensive yards on three occasions.
In last two games, Penn State has scored 103 points, marking the first time Penn State has combined for 100 points across two games since 2008.
Postgame, the Nittany Lions were quick to give credit to the offensive line, as head coach James Franklin noted all week that the improving offensive line needed to continue their rise, especially against a disruptive Iowa defense.
"We're really meshing," running back Saquon Barkley said. "As an offense as a whole, we're really meshing. It starts up front, and guys are doing a tremendous job of leading those guys and making the right calls to put us in position to be successful."
Along with the surging Penn State offense, here are a few more takeaways from Penn State's fifth straight victory.
Another Fast Start
Penn State made the most of its opening drive once again, as quarterback Trace McSorley found wide receiver Saeed Blacknall deep in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown pass to start the game. The Nittany Lions have now scored a touchdown on their opening drive in three of the last four games and in each of the last two outings. The last time that Penn State scored on its opening drive in back-to-back games was in 2012 at Virginia and vs. Navy.
"Scoring on the opening drive, that's something that we emphasized earlier in the year and we're starting to show improvement there," head coach James Franklin said.
Take a closer look at McSorley's first of two touchdown passes on the night.
Winning Battles in Explosive Plays
& Turnover Margin
The Nittany Lions checked both boxes following a week where Franklin noted that the ability to execute long yardage plays and win the turnover battle would only continue to lead to more success.
The Nittany Lions logged six plays of 20 yards or more against the Hawkeyes, limiting Iowa to just three. Barkley scored twice on a pair of long yardage plays, rushing for his longest career touchdown in Beaver Stadium with a 57-yard haul in the second quarter. He added a career-long 44-yard touchdown grab in the the fourth quarter following a Troy Apke interception.
Barkley was outstanding for the Nittany Lions in the win, totaling 211 all purpose yards, including 167 on the ground to eclipse the 2,000 career rushing yard mark with his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season.
Apke's interception marked the first of his career, as he picked off Hawkeye quarterback C.J. Beathard before adding a 10-yard return.
Conversely, the Nittany Lions played their second consecutive turnover-free game. Penn State has committed just one offensive turnover in its last five games, while McSorley has played a perfect 20 consecutive quarters without an interception, in addition to an overtime period against Minnesota.
Halting the Hawkeye Run Game
When asked what he likes most about the defensive line earlier this week, linebacker Jason Cabinda said it was their pursuit. The Nittany Lions were certainly relentless in their pursuit Saturday, combining for three of Penn State's four sacks against Iowa and four of the six team tackles for loss.
Cabinda ignited an early spark for the Penn State defense, stopping Beathard and the Hawkeyes on fourth-and-1 on Iowa's first possession of the game.
The Penn State defense as an entire unit limited the Hawkeyes to just 30 yards on the ground. The Nittany Lions have limited their opponent to less than 50 yards in each of the last two games, something Penn State has never done in a pair of consecutive conference outings since joining the Big Ten in 1993. Iowa entered the matchup Saturday averaging 167.9 rushing yards per game.
The Nittany Lions also held Iowa to 14 points, with the Hawkeyes entering the outing averaging 28.1 points per game on the year.
More from Cabinda below.
Improvements on Third Down
It's been a point of emphasis for the Nittany Lions all season, but Saturday Penn State finally saw some improvement in third down conversion, converting 7-of-14 attempts against Iowa.
Penn State also did not have a single three-and-out in the entire game, with McSorley able to bring up a new set of downs on five of the seven successful conversions, targeting wide receiver Chris Godwin twice for a pair of completions for at least 11 yards in a pair of third down situations.