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Two steps forward, one step back

I wrote prior to the start of the current Iowa football season that this had the potential to be one of the more interesting seasons the Hawkeyes have had in recent years. I haven't changed my opinion. I based those initial thoughts on the inexperience that filled the Hawkeye lineup on both sides of the ball. Role players were being asked to step into key positions, newcomers were being asked to become role players. Kirk Ferentz warned anybody who would listen that there would be ups and downs. Together, we've all experienced both during the first seven weeks of the season as inconsistent Iowa has crafted a 4-3 record. The growing pains continued tonight at Kinnick Stadium, where Penn State delivered another reminder that this Iowa football team doesn't have the world by the horns just yet. The team that moved beyond a stinging loss to Central Michigan by handling Minnesota and finding a way to win at Michigan State was dealt a blow right to the heart of its ego by the Nittany Lions. Penn State pounced quickly and never took its foot off the pedal until it led 38-0 and Iowa fans began a slow, orderly processional toward the exits on a mid-October evening. "I thought this was going to be a really tight, competitive ballgame, that was my anticipation,'' Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "You know, they have got a good football team obviously and it's as well, at least from my vantage point, as they have played this year.'' Penn State coach Bill O'Brien expected that from his team. The Nittany Lions' up-tempo attack, which ran 99 plays a week earlier against Northwestern, ran 90 at the Iowa defense tonight. O'Brien said it had the desired result as Penn State piled up 504 total yards and quarterback Matt McGloin topped 200 passing yards for the fifth straight game. "When you go fast tempo, it's not conditioning. It's a matter of communication and getting lined up,'' he said. "Iowa is a tough, well-conditioned football team.'' O'Brien said McGloin may have played his best game against the Hawkeyes. "Through seven games, this guy has been prepared. When a guy is in his fifth year, he grows up and understands he only has a few shots left,'' O'Brien said. Iowa, which had its 11th first-time starter this season take the field when Greg Garmon opened at running back, doesn't have 11 seniors in its lineup like Penn State does. The Hawkeyes have played that way and the series of peeks and valleys this team has traveled will likely continue. Iowa has not shown the growth to this point that it takes to be consistent on offense and the loss of Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal to injuries only makes that challenge more difficult. Quarterback James Vandenberg doesn't have a Marvin McNutt to throw to this season and the lack of a consistent rushing attack, especially now with injuries in the line and Mark Weisman nursing an ankle sprain, is impacting the passing game as well. Iowa's defense spent over 38 minutes on the field tonight, far too long and something which only played into Penn State's hands. Even the consistent leg of Mike Meyer struggled against Penn State, illustrating again that this Iowa football team remains a work in progress. The victory at Michigan State in double overtime proved to be a bit of fool's gold, masking the fact that there is still plenty of work for this Iowa football team to do.

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