Last-second touchdown allows Penn State to escape Iowa with victory
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was happening like it had so often in the past.
A once-sluggish Iowa team had come to life in the fourth quarter at home under the lights, and another top-five opponent was set to go down.
Trace McSorley, Juwan Johnson and the resilient Nittany Lions flipped the script, scoring on the game's final play to survive a wild Big Ten opener.
Johnson caught a 7-yard touchdown pass as time expired, and fourth-ranked Penn State rallied to stun Iowa, 21-19, on Saturday night.
Saquon Barkley had 211 yards rushing and 94 yards receiving for the Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0), who outgained Iowa, 579-273, but nearly blew a game that could have been crippling to their postseason hopes.
“Felt like with (Johnson) we had a height advantage, and we could slip him through the middle of the field,” Penn State coach James Franklin said of the winning play.
Akrum Wadley had a 70-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter and a 35-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 42 seconds left to put the Hawkeyes (3-1, 0-1) ahead 19-15.
Penn State went 80 yards on 12 plays to close out the game, and McSorley found Johnson in a crowded end zone on fourth down. McSorley finished with 284 yards passing on 48 attempts.
Wadley had 80 yards rushing and 75 yards receiving, and Nate Stanley threw for 191 yards and two TDs for Iowa.
“It's a tough loss for all of us,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You can see first-hand why they were the Big Ten champs last year.
“The big difference in the game was that running back. He's a phenomenal player.”
Michigan came into Iowa City in a similar spot a year ago and lost 14-13, so the Nittany Lions should be happy they avoided a loss that would have erased their margin of error for the playoffs.
Barkley was unstoppable, and Penn State's defense was brilliant. But the Nittany Lions didn't do a ton in the passing game until the final drive — when McSorley's final pass was right on the money.
Third-ranked Oklahoma struggled with winless Baylor on the road, but it's unclear if Penn State did enough to leapfrog the Sooners, who have a win over Ohio State to their credit.
Barkley also caught 12 passes.