In most football journeys there are going to be defining/crossroads moments. Both ways. For Penn State, Saturday night at Iowa — where it has historically had issues — was one of them. In maybe even a season-saving way, if you have the biggest of aspirations.
The fourth-ranked Nittany Lions, in their Big Ten opener, had to go 80 yards in 1 minute, 36 seconds after the Hawkeyes had taken a five-point lead on a 35-yard run. And they did. Trace McSorley threw a seven-yard touchdown to Juwan Johnson on fourth-and-goal on the final snap to give them a 21-19 win. McSorley threaded the ball between defenders in the back middle of the end zone.
Iowa (3-1, 0-1) was up 7-5 at the half, the first time the Nits have trailed. On the closing drive, they also needed to convert a fourth-and-6 in their own territory.
Saquon Barkley had a career-high 211 rushing yards on 28 carries and a program-best 358 all-purpose yards. He had 12 catches for 94. McSorley was 31-for-49 for 284.
The Nits ran 54 more plays and had 309 more yards. They still had to find a way to pull it out. It’s the kind of ending that can make all the difference some December. Sometimes you just have to survive.
This was their first road game. This week they’re back home against Indiana (2-1). The Lions won out there a year ago, 45-21. If this ride turns into something especially memorable, in time the play will become THE PLAY.
Albany 19, Villanova 10 (overtime)
The Wildcats (2-2, 0-1), who were ranked seventh in FCS, had scored 59 at home last week against Lafayette. But their lone TD in their CAA opener came on the last play of regulation, a two-yard shovel pass from Zach Bednarczyk to Aaron Forbes.
In the extra period, the Great Danes (3-1, 1-0) kicked a field goal on the opening possession. The Wildcats, who won the toss and elected to defend first, would then go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 16. After getting stopped on third-and-1. But Bednarczyk fumbled and Albany returned it for a TD that didn’t matter.
Albany had gone ahead with 2:23 to go, on a short run that capped an eight-minute drive. Villanova went 87 yards to force more football. It’s the first win for the Danes over the Cats in four series meetings.
Villanova lost cornerback Rob Rolle and tight end Ryan Bell to knee injuries in the first half. Saturday night the Wildcats are at Towson (2-2, 0-1). They lost there in 2015.
In their last six losses they’ve scored 44 points, which includes a defensive score. For the sixth straight game the defense held the other guys to under 100 yards on the ground.
Elsewhere in the CAA, No. 8 Richmond (2-2, 0-1) lost at home, 36-35, to Elon (3-1, 1-0), which was picked to finish 11th but has won three straight for the first time since 2010.
Penn 65, Lehigh 47
The Quakers (2-0) went to Bethlehem for their first road game — and first against an FCS opponent — and put up the program’s highest point total since 1946.
The teams combined for 1,167 yards on 139 plays. Penn’s 615 was 13 shy of a school record. It was a Goodman Stadium record for total points. And the most Penn has ever given up in a victory.
There were two punts, one apiece. And no field-goal attempts.
It was 14-14 after a quarter, 35-28 Penn at the half. The Quakers scored 21 of the next 28.
The Mountain Hawks, who were ranked 17th to start the season but have had a bunch of injuries, are 0-4. Sophomore Karekin Brooks, making his first start in place of the injured Tre Solomon, carried 29 times for 268 yards and three TDs. That’s four short of Penn’s 24-year-old rushing record. And he had a 61-yard TD called back because of a holding penalty with three minutes left. He also threw a 4-yard TD to defensive end David Ryslik off a direct snap early in the fourth period.
After Solomon went out early in the opener against Division II Ohio Dominican, Brooks rushed for 142 yards and two TDs on 10 attempts. His 410 in back-to-back games is a school-best.
More to the point, the Quakers are 2-0 for the first time since 2004. The two-time defending Ivy champions will play their first league game Friday night at home against Dartmouth (2-0).
Mike Kern’s Top 10
1. Alabama (4-0): Beat Vanderbilt, 59-0. Saturday: vs. Mississippi. Lost to Ole Miss in 2014 and ’15. Won, 48-43, a year ago.
2. Clemson (4-0): Beat Boston College, 34-7. Saturday: at Virginia Tech. Has won last four meetings, including last year’s ACC title game (and 2011 final).
3. Oklahoma (4-0): Beat Baylor, 49-41. Next: Oct. 7 vs. Iowa State. Sooners play Oklahoma State (on road) and TCU back-to-back in games nine and 10.
4. Washington (4-0): Beat Colorado, 37-10. Saturday: at Oregon State. Has beaten Oregon State five straight, after losing seven of eight before that (win was in OT).
5. Penn State (4-0): Beat Iowa, 21-19. Saturday: vs. Indiana. Have lost to the Hoosiers once in 20 meetings. That was in 2013 on road.
6. Southern Cal (4-0): Beat Cal, 30-20. Friday: at Washington State. Have won nine of last 10 meetings. Loss was two years ago at WSU (10-7). Last year was 44-17.
7. Georgia (4-0): Beat Mississippi State, 31-3. Saturday: at Tennessee. Lost last two to Tennessee, by 4 last year and 7 in 2015.
8. Michigan (4-0): Beat Purdue, 28-10. Next: Oct. 7 vs. Michigan State. Have lost seven of last nine to the Spartans. Won last year, 32-23.
9. Wisconsin (3-0): Idle. Saturday: vs. Northwestern. Lost to the Wikldcats in 2014 and ’15. Won last year, 21-7.
10. Ohio State (3-1): Beat Nevada-Las Vegas, 54-21. Saturday: at Rutgers. Has beaten Knights by a margin of 163-24 last three years. Will try not to be looking ahead to Maryland.
Next in line: TCU (4-0), Virginia Tech (4-0), Oklahoma State (3-1), Auburn (3-1), and Washington State (4-0)/Miami (2-0).
Mississippi State — Shouldn’t be losing 31-3 at Georgia the week after you beat LSU by 30.
Oklahoma State – Can’t be losing to TCU at home by 13 as double-digit fave when you’re trying to crack the Top 10.
Vanderbilt – You can lose to Alabama, again. But maybe not by 59-0 at home after starting 3-0.
Florida State – North Carolina State hadn’t beaten a ranked team on road in nearly a decade.
Temple – It’s OK to lose at South Florida. But probably not by 43-7 in prime time.
Dishonorable Mention: Maryland — Big Ten teams can’t be losing at home by 28 to AAC teams (Central Florida). And UCLA — Can’t be giving up 58 at Stanford, which had scored 41 in consecutive losses.