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After averaging 217.5 rushing yards in its first four games, Iowa's rushing game led by Mekhi Sargent has totaled a combined 71 yards the past two weeks against Michigan and Penn State.

IOWA CITY -- Held to fewer than 100 rushing yards for the second straight week, it was another struggle offensively for the Iowa football team Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium.

Five things to ponder following the now 23rd-ranked Iowa football team's 17-12 loss to Penn State as the team pushes forward to next weekend's 11 a.m. home game against Purdue:

1. The good

Iowa's defense has held up well against a pair of Big Ten heavyweights in the past two games.

Giving up 10 and 17 points to Michigan and Penn State, respectively, the Hawkeyes have taken opponents out of their game.

Penn State showed up at Kinnick Stadium averaging 499.6 yards per game and 7.2 yards per play.

It didn't come anywhere close to that against the Hawkeyes, limited to a season-low 294 yards and 3.8 yards per play as Iowa sacked sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford three times and A.J. Epenesa added to his collection with three more quarterback hurries.

Jack Koerner had a game and career high with 13 tackles, the most by an Iowa defender since Josey Jewell recorded 13 stops in a 2017 game against Purdue.

Cedrick Lattimore with seven, Brady Reiff with six, Dillon Doyle with five and Austin Schulte with four also recorded career-high tackle totals in helping Iowa slow the Penn State offense.

2. The not-so-good

The one area where the Hawkeye defense toiled was in finding ways to get off the field.

Penn State converted on 10-of-19 third-down plays, moving the chains and maintaining possession of the football.

The Nittany Lions held the ball for 32 minutes, 52 seconds, the first opponent this season to deny Iowa an advantage in possession time.

That became critical in the fourth quarter when Penn State had the ball in its hands for 10:23, in part a byproduct of Jaquan Brisker's interception of a Nate Stanley pass and also reflective of the Iowa defense's inability down the stretch to get off the field on third down.

That combination denied the Hawkeyes a chance at their first home win over a rated opponent in two seasons.

3. The bad

While not to the degree that it was an issue a week earlier against Michigan, turnovers and the inability to protect Stanley continued to plague Iowa against Penn State.

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The Hawkeyes sliced their turnover total in half from one week to the next, but a fumble by Tyler Goodson in the third quarter and the interception thrown by Stanley in the fourth led to 10 Penn State points.

Do the math — in a game decided by five points both proved to be critical miscues.

Stanley, sacked eight times at Michigan, was sacked just twice by a Penn State team that arrived at Kinnick Stadium averaging a nation-leading five sacks per game.

Defensive tackle Robert Windsor recorded two of the five quarterback hurries and Penn State did total seven tackles for a loss to create additional headaches Stanley believes Iowa will ultimately work through.

"It always passes,'' Stanley said. "As long as we continue to put our heads to the grindstone and do what we need to do on a daily basis, this is going to pass and we will get through it.''

4. The identity

Iowa hasn't been the only defense to alter an opponent's approach the past two weeks.

Michigan and Penn State have flipped the script on the Hawkeyes as well, turning Iowa's run-first approach on its head by opening early leads and prompting Stanley and the Hawkeyes to play a different game.

It's a rarity but Iowa's combined 85 pass attempts against the Wolverines and Nittany Lions are 25 more than the equal number of 30 running plays Iowa ran against both Michigan and Penn State, totaling 71 yards of productivity.

"I don't know where the run is at,'' offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs said. "It's not what it needs to be. There's a couple of good runs in there and then we kind of stalled out.''

The result has been a combined 15 points — Iowa's lowest two-game total against Big Ten competition since totaling 10 points in consecutive losses to Illinois and Ohio State in 2000.

"You do what you think is going to give you the best chance to move the ball and ultimately score points,'' coach Kirk Ferentz said, adding, "I'm not too upset about that. We've just got to do a little bit better.''

5. The aftermath

With Wisconsin shutting out four of its first six opponents and unbeaten Minnesota continuing to find ways to win, Iowa's margin for error in the Big Ten West pretty much vanished with Saturday's loss.

The Hawkeyes needed a split of their last two games to maintain control of their destiny in the division, but now two games off of the pace Iowa will need some help to rekindle division title hopes.

At this point, the big picture is secondary to the little details and taking care of those begins this week.

"There are still a lot of good things out there for us,'' strong safety Geno Stone said. "It's up to us to improve enough to be capable of accomplishing them. It starts with the details. We've got to get the little things down because we've seen the last two weeks how the little things make all the difference.''

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