Penn State faces first test vs. Iowa

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - September 25, 2009 The players this week followed coach Joe Paterno's lead, insisting that Saturday night's reunion with the Hawkeyes won't be a grudge match - even if Iowa did ruin Penn State's national title hopes last season with a stunning, last-second win.

"I don't like the word you use when you say 'revenge.' I don't know what revenge has got to do with it in football," the Hall of Fame coach said in response to a reporter's question. "It's not like they sneaked up on us and stuck us in the back with a knife or something."

Players on both sides say they had forgotten about last year's thriller, though the memories have come flooding back in advance of this weekend's tilt between Iowa and No. 5 Penn State, both 3-0.

On Nov. 8, 2008, the jubilant Hawkeyes, then 5-4, celebrated on a cold, blustery evening in Iowa City after Daniel Murray's 31-yard field goal with a second left gave them a 24-23 victory over then-unbeaten and third-ranked Penn State.

Paterno's shot at a third career national title disappeared.

"They played a good football game and they beat us," Paterno said. "I don't think we're going to be too fired" up this week.

Nittany Lions star quarterback Daryll Clark is still bothered by his nightmarish performance that day, going 9 of 23 for 86 yards, plus one crucial interception late in the fourth quarter deep in Iowa territory.

"It's my responsibility to put it in the past because it happened last year," said Clark, who has thrown for 760 yards and eight touchdowns this season. "Now I have another opportunity to win a game."

Iowa hasn't lost since, winners of seven straight stretching into 2009. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi became a household name in Iowa City after helping to lead the late drive that set up Murray's game-winning kick.

"We had to play together as a team, and after that game was over we kind of put it to rest," Stanzi said.

The injury report has become just as important as the stat sheet heading into the Big Ten opener for both squads.

The Hawkeyes likely will be without left tackle Bryan Bulaga (undisclosed illness), and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said at midweek that he doesn't see Bulaga being ready by Saturday.

That could spell trouble against one of the Big Ten's best defensive lines. Six-foot-five tackle Jared Odrick, who has two sacks, often needs double-teamed to be contained up the middle, leaving potential pass-rush lanes vunerable elsewhere along the line.

Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki (leg) and wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (hamstring) were also day to day, and Ferentz hasn't released more specifics on those injuries.

"Last year was a little more stable," Ferentz said when asked how the injuries have affected the offense's rhythm. "Right now, we're just waiting to see who shows up everyday."

For Penn State, Paterno has said leading tackler and team captain Sean Lee is very doubtful for Saturday after spraining his left knee during last week's win over Temple.

Fellow standout Navorro Bowman will play after missing most of the first three games with a right groin injury. But Nathan Stupar, a top backup who had been filling in for Bowman, sprained an ankle this week and may not be ready.

Already without promising sophomore Michael Mauti because of a season-ending right knee injury in preseason, the linebacker depth considered a strength coming into the year will be put to the test. Middle linebacker Josh Hull, the only one of the three starting linebackers this season who hasn't been hurt, will be relied on more heavily.

"He's got to be the leader, when I don't think he expected that he would have that kind of responsibility with Lee and Bowman around," Paterno said.

Run defense for both teams may be even more important given Saturday night's wet weather forcast, which calls for rain, possibly heavy at times.

Penn State is fourth nationally against the run, holding opponents to 46 yards per game. The Hawkeyes' offense comes in with confidence after freshman Adam Robinson rushed for a career-high 101 yards and two TDs last week against Arizona at Kinnick Stadium.

On offense Penn State's offensive line struggled with the run until playing better last week against Temple to spring top tailback Evan Royster for 134 yards and a touchdown. Iowa's defense, though, should be a formidable test after they held Arizona star Nic Grigsby to 75 yards last week - 58 on one long run.

One factor that tilts in Penn State's favor is the all-stadium "whiteout" called for by the athletic department, which has asked the expected raucous crowd of at least 107,000 to show up at Beaver Stadium wearing white Nittany Lions gear.

"Something about the white, it's almost like the seating glows," left tackle Dennis Landolt said. "The place at night is so alive you really can't describe it."

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