It was a valiant effort that capped a cold, sloppy, back-and-forth afternoon, out of which Penn State emerged with a 30-24 win in Happy Valley that prevented a potential mini-spiral in State College and brought some clarity to the Big Ten West picture.
The Hawkeyes struggled offensively with quarterback Nate Stanley going 18 of 49 for 205 yards and two interceptions.
Many expected the game to be a shootout, with lots of points scored, with Penn State ultimately finding a way to pull it out in the second half.
Iowa's run defense held Penn State to fewer than 100 yards, the sixth time the Hawkeyes have done so this season. 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. Iowa had two safeties and a touchdown pass by punter Colten Rastetter to defensive tackle Sam Brincks on a faked field goal in the first half, and a pick-six in the second half.
"Gutsy win", Penn State coach James Franklin said. McSorley returned before halftime, but it was his 51-yard touchdown run to kick off the third quarter and give his team a 24-17 lead that let Penn State fans know he was feeling like his old self.
McSorley gave Penn State a scare when he went down in the second quarter with what appeared to be a right leg injury.
NORTHWESTERN 31, No. 20 WISCONSIN 17: In Evanston, Illinois, Clayton Thorson ran for two touchdowns and threw for one to lead the Wildcats.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette had 103 kick-return yards on 3 returns, including a 49-yarder to set Iowa up with excellent field position.
Worst penalty: On fourth-and-1 from the PSU 48 in the second quarter - after a timeout, no less - Miller jumped offsides, gift-wrapping the Hawkeyes a first down. McSorley also surrendered an interception in the fourth quarter that allowed the Hawkeyes within three points. Leake, a sophomore, finished with 140 yards rushing, including scores of 64, 27 and 43 yards. They last lost three straight at home in 2015. The offense showed glimpses of their earlier-season self as they took the ball the length of the field few times and showed a more functional use of the LION package than against Ohio State.
McSorley has 35 starts of the Nittany Lions, with four regular season games (at MI on Saturday, followed by Wisconsin, Rutgers and Maryland) and a bowl game remaining. Iowa is likely to drop.