No. 10 Penn State emerged from Iowa City still undefeated after a 17-12 win over No. 17 Iowa on Saturday, securing James Franklin's first road win against a ranked top 25 team, snapping a streak that spanned 11 games. Both teams struggled to get offense going in the first half while defense dominated this Big Ten matchup throughout. The Nittany Lions finally found some momentum toward the end of the second half on Saturday night, but the Hawkeyes couldn't make things work as a shaky offensive line and an offensive unit led by struggling quarterback Nate Stanley went without a touchdown for three full quarters.
It was the expected rock fight for most of the night, with Penn State scoring the first touchdown of the night in the second quarter when KJ Hamler hurdled a man for the only touchdown of the half. The Hawkeyes offensive line, which allowed eight sacks on Stanley last weekend, allowed just two sacks on their senior signal-caller this week against the Nittany Lions, who led the FBS in sacks at 5.0 per game entering the contest. Despite the small improvement in protection, Stanley's blockers still struggled and the quarterback threw a costly interception in the fourth under pressure. Penn State capitalized and scored a second touchdown but Iowa picked up the pace in response. The Hawkeyes finally found the end zone and all of Kinnick Stadium breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of some life in their offense, but they didn't have enough time to complete the comeback at home.
Despite a slew of sloppy penalties in the game, the Nittany Lions survived in the end and likely put a damper on the Hawkeyes' quest to capture the Big Ten West. Here now are a few takeaways from Penn State's big road win at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
1. Penn State's defense is impressive, but so is Iowa's. The Hawkeyes held Michigan to just one touchdown last week and kept Penn State's usually explosive offense at bay on Saturday night, only allowing two touchdowns. They out-sacked the FBS's strongest unit in that statistic. The Nittany Lions' defense impressed with how physical and athletic they are. The Big Ten boasts a lot of good defenses this season, but Penn State hasn't given up more than 13 points in six games. Defensive slugfests don't always make for the most exciting football for fans, especially when the offenses can't get even get anything fun going for the secondary to stop, but what Penn State has been able to do defensively this season is still impressive. They've given Clifford and its young offense some time to really settle in, and it'll need to keep it up as a tough October slate continues.
2. Both offenses need to figure some things out. Penn State's offensive line needs to avoid penalties (read: HOLDING) to let the offense shine, but the lack of offensive spark isn't just on the line. They made some costly mistakes but the offense wasn't really moving much even when the Nittany Lions weren't getting two touchdowns recalled during one drive. Clifford threw for just 117 yards and one touchdown on a 50 percent completion percentage. Tight end Noah Cain added 102 yards on the ground and hauled in a score for the Nittany Lions, but no one else really stepped up.
The Hawkeyes went seven straight quarters without scoring a touchdown. They finally found the elusive end zone in the fourth after the offense picked up the pace and marched toward a one-possession game, but it was too late, especially when facing a top-10 team. An offense that forgets how to score isn't going to win games, but one that forgets how to block won't either -- and the Hawkeyes have been struggling with both of those things as of late. Iowa's offense has also struggled to find an identity, failing to gain any significant traction on their ground game or in the air. Leading rusher Tyler Goodson only tallied 35 yards on eight attempts, while tossed for 286 yards to one interception and one touchdown but still didn't seem to have a top target — or find much success with the guys he was trying to use in that role. Even when his offensive line allowed six fewer sacks than last week, Stanley couldn't orchestrate enough offense to find the end zone early enough for a win.
3. The time has come for the Big Ten to sort itself out. After Penn State's win in Iowa City likely crushed the last of Iowa's Big Ten championship hopes and dreams, there are still four undefeated teams left in the conference (and Michigan, who has one loss to Wisconsin on its resume). This will be the month that things start to get sorted out as all of the conference's top competitors meet. Penn State has No. 16 Michigan on deck for next week followed by a trip to Michigan State. Ohio State and Wisconsin will meet this month as well in what could be a potential preview of the conference championship clash. Minnesota is the only remaining undefeated team in the league without a true test on its slate for the rest of the month, so the Gophers could continue to skate by until November when they take on their first ranked opponents of the season.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way Saturday night updating this story with the latest scores, analysis and highlights from Penn State and Iowa. You can view the updates below.