092317-HAWKEYE-FOOTBALL-026

Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell (43) runs after an interception late in the second quarter of Saturday's game at Kinnick Stadium. Jewell's pick set up an Iowa touchdown moments later.

Andy Abeyta, QUAD-CITY TIMES

Five things to think about following the Iowa football team's 21-19 loss to fourth-ranked Penn State on Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium:

1. The good

Despite being on the field for 99 snaps against one of the Big Ten's most potent offenses, the Iowa defense showed the fight of a team that has the ability to contend in the Big Ten West.

The Hawkeyes did a terrific job of taking the Nittany Lions out of their big-play comfort zone and forced a veteran collection of skill players to methodically work to position Penn State to score.

Iowa sacked quarterback Trace McSorley four times and recorded 11 tackles for a loss in the game, attacking with constant and effective pressure.

The Nittany Lions piled up yards - 579 of them - but settled for field goals on two of their five trips into the red zone and didn't score any points on a third journey inside the 20-yard line. Penn State converted on just 6-of-18 third-down plays.

The Hawkeyes bent, and barely broke in the upset bid and it took a perfectly-placed pass between two converging defenders as time expired for the Nittany Lions to escape with a win in their first Big Ten road test of the game.

It was one of the grittier efforts by the Hawkeyes in some time.

2. The really good

How stinkin' good is Josey Jewell?

The preseason all-American played like one against Penn State.

He matched a career high with 16 tackles, including 11 stops. He also recorded three tackles for a loss, intercepted a pass and returned it 33 yards to set up Iowa's first score, broke up two additional passes and recovered a fumble.

Not a bad night's work for the senior linebacker whose work was complemented by terrific play from Anthony Nelson, who had 2.5 sacks, broke up two passes, blocked a kick and had a quarterback hurry, and by the career-high 13-tackle starting debut of Amani Hooker.

Jewell even managed to mock McSorley's signature move, celebrating his 33-yard interception return with a home-run swing. That's the same cut McSorley takes to celebrate the touchdowns he scores.

Bonus points there.

3. The really, really good

As much effort as Iowa's defense put into Saturday's game, Penn State's Saquon Barkley was simply better.

The junior finished with 358 all-purpose yards against the Hawkeyes, rushing 28 times for 211 yards and catching 12 passes for 94 yards in addition to returning three kickoffs 53 yards.

Coach Kirk Ferentz called Barkley "a special player,'' in his postgame news conference, adding, "I don't know I've seen many better or any better in my 19 years back here.''

Barkley earned that praise on multiple occasions.

"He's a tough guy to tackle. Looked like we had him stopped, and the next you know he's going further down the road,'' Ferentz said. "It's one of those deals.''

That quick first step and exceptional athleticism separates Barkley from his peers.

He demonstrated that when he went up and over cornerback Josh Jackson and followed that leap by escaping from a hit delivered by Amani Hooker before being chased out of bounds on a play in the fourth quarter.

Barkley's performance was probably the most dominant by an opponent at Kinnick Stadium since Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon rushed for 200 yards on 31 carries and covered 64 yards on four pass receptions during a 2014 game against the Hawkeyes.

Gordon scored twice that day, including on a 23-yard run in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the Badgers' 26-24 win that day.

4. The not so bad

Beyond the sting of the loss, there were some good things to take from Iowa's play against Penn State on offense and even on special teams.

The Hawkeyes did pile up 219 yards of offense in the second half against the Nittany Lions after sputtering in the first two quarters.

That growth within the game for Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is something to build on following his first Big Ten test. The sophomore's passes early on seemed adrenaline-filled, a byproduct of the moment, and were initially too hot to handle.

After a 5-of-12 start, Stanley connected on 8-of-10 passes he attempted in the second half and spread the ball to six receivers.

He'll be better in the future because of the experience he gained against an aggressive Penn State defense which tested Stanley physically and mentally.

Iowa's inconsistency extended to special teams.

Kicker Miguel Recinos had what proved to be a critical 36-yard field goal try blocked on the fourth snap of the fourth quarter and punter Colten Rastetter dealt with good and bad.

Rastetter topped 50 yards on two of his seven punts, including a career-long 53-yard effort, but his average of 41.1 yards was impacted by punts of 35, 31 and 32 in the opening half.

5. The bad

The decision to pitch the ball back to Akrum Wadley on a second-and-eight play from the Iowa 3-yard line was bizarre at best.

The Hawkeye senior received the ball five yards deep in the end zone and he was quickly surrounded by three Penn State defenders, then dropped for the first safety Iowa has allowed in a game since punter Ryan Donahue ran the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety in a 2008 game against Iowa State in the final minutes of a 17-5 win.

In this instance, it gave Penn State a 5-0 lead and two points that ultimately proved to be the difference in the final outcome.

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