STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Nick Scott intercepted a pass to thwart Iowa at the Penn State 2 with 3:18 left and the No. 17 Nittany Lions held on to avoid a third straight home loss with a 30-24 victory Saturday over the No. 18 Hawkeyes.
Penn State (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) needed one last defensive stand to hold off Iowa (6-2, 3-2), which got to the Nittany Lions 44 with less than a minute left.
On fourth-and-10 with 7 seconds left, Penn State’s pass rush swarmed Nate Stanley, who flipped backward to offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. The 300-pounder rumbled 15 yards before being dragged down with no time left.
It was a fitting end to an odd game with little sustained offense. Iowa scored on two safeties and a touchdown pass by punter Colten Rastetter to defensive tackle Sam Brincks on a faked field goal in the first half. Penn State played three series in the second quarter without starting quarterback Trace McSorley.
McSorley was sandwiched by two Hawkeyes defenders as he tried to scramble and stayed down, grabbing his right leg. The Beaver Stadium crowd fell silent as athletic trainers attended to the senior.
He got up with assistance and had help to take a few steps before walking off on his own with a limp. The 6-foot, 202-pound McSorley has started 35 straight games for Penn State since the start of the 2016 season.
Tommy Stevens played the next two series at quarterback for Penn State, scoring on a 3-yard run that was set up by John Reid’s 41-yard interception return. Stevens led a short drive late in the first half to set up Jake Pinegar’s career-best 45-yard field goal to make it 17-all at the break. Pinegar bested that with a 49-yarder in the third quarter and made a 44-yard in the fourth after being 0 for 3 from 40 and beyond coming into the game.
McSorley began the second half and broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run to give Penn State its first lead, 24-17, with 12:10 left in the third quarter.
Penn State turnovers in the fourth quarter kept Iowa in the game, despite a poor day from Stanley, who was 18 for 49 for 205 yards and two interceptions.
Geno Stone intercepted McSorley’s pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-24 with 10 minutes left in the fourth.
Trailing 30-24, Iowa and Stanley converted two third-and-longs to get to first-and-goal at the 3 with 3:30 left. But Stanley’s next throw was a quick pass toward star tight end Noah Fant, who was not looking. Scott jumped up and made the interception.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes have lost three straight years to Penn State and five straight overall in the series, but they are still very much in contention to win the Big Ten West.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions had lost their last two home games, to Ohio State and Michigan State, by blowing fourth-quarter leads. By hanging on, they dodged their first three-game home skid since 2015.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes go to Purdue.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions travel to No. 5 Michigan.