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Penn State Defense Steps Up In Win Against Iowa

The Nittany Lions' defense stymied the Hawkeyes in State's first win against Iowa since 2007.

Same song, different verse.

With the offense struggling to put points on the board, the Penn State defense once again rose to the occasion, holding Iowa's offense in check throughout the Nittany Lions' 13-3 win against the Hawkeyes on Saturday at Beaver Stadium and helping the team move to 5-1 on the season and 2-0 in the Big Ten Leaders Division.

Iowa had been averaging 37.75 points per game entering play on Saturday, but defensive coordinator Tom Bradley's unit had no interest in letting the Hawkeyes keep that performance up, allowing a field goal in the first quarter and pitching a shutout from there on out.

"For the first time in a long time, I thought we played a complete game defensively," Bradley said after the game. "We didn't have that lapse, we didn't have that lull in the game."

Penn State registered five sacks on the afternoon and generated three turnovers while holding the Hawkeyes to 253 total yards.

Hot Hawkeye quarterback James Vandenberg was limited to just 169 yards on 17-for-34 passing, and was victimized by two interceptions.

The game marked the first time since 2000 that the Hawkeyes were held to three points or fewer by a Big Ten opponent, when they lost 31-0 to Illinois on October 14 of that year.

"I think were a good defense," safety Drew Astorino said after the game. "We can play like that every single game, we've just got to come out and do it."

The Lions deployed a lot of blitzes throughout the game, attempting to put pressure on Vandenberg all afternoon. Defensive tackle Devon Still said after the game the defense probably blitzed "30-40 percent of the time," allowing the Nittany Lions to get pressure on the quarterback and force the Hawkeyes out of rhythm.

The unit also benefited from several sustained drives from the offense, including an 8:16 sequence to open the game, that still said kept the defense fresh and strong down the stretch.

Three of Penn State's sacks came on Iowa's final drive, as the Lions continued to throw blitzes at the Hawkeye offense.

Sean Stanley hit Vandenberg for a loss of five yards on first down, Devon Still knifed through Iowa's offensive long on second down, and the combo of Khairi Fortt and Eric Latimore combined to bring Vandenberg on third down near the goal line, effectively putting a first down, and the game, out of reach for the Hawkeyes.

Bradley was thrilled with the dominating sequence.

"They smelled it, they wanted to finish it," Bradley said. "I said to them the last two drives 'We're going to finish this off the right way. We're not going to have a lapse.' "

They certainly didn't have that lapse, and as a result, Penn State sits at the half way point atop the division standings and with a big statement win under its belt. 

Still thinks the performance sent a message to the conference that the Lions' defense is here to stay.

"We've been going out there every week to try to prove that we're not only one of the best defenses in the Big Ten but one of the best defenses in the country," Still said. "We just want to go out there and continue to play the way we've been playing all year."

Check out some of defensive tackle Jordan Hill's comments on the defense's performance below.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.