Penn State's Costly Meltdown

There Penn State was, just trudging along on its way to another "We don't care about your BCS style points" type of victory. On a cold and windy day in Iowa City, the Nittany Lions bullied their way to a 23-14 lead after three quarters by doing the things they had done all year.

PSU wasn't turning the ball over. The defense was looking stout. Everything was under control.

And then it all fell apart.

Iowa chipped within 23-21 on 44-yard touchdown drive. Then, with four minutes left and Penn State in the middle of a game-clinching drive (aided by an Iowa roughing the punter penalty), the Nittany Lions were called for a holding penalty and Darryl Clark followed that up by tossing an interception.

Still, the defense had a chance to save the game and salvage Penn State's perfect season. Instead, Iowa put together a 16-play drive that culminated with a short field goal.

Game over and, with it, Penn State's title dreams.

A moment to congratulate Iowa. Shonn Greene may not be a bona fide Heisman contender, but he had a spectacular game. Twenty-eight carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns - including the one that pulled Iowa within two in the fourth, and several important runs in the winning drive.

Despite quarterback Ricky Stanzi's limitations, the Hawkeyes still managed to put a nine-point rally together - and do so through the air. Give credit to somewhat-maligned coach Kirk Ferentz for that.

In the second half, Stanzi found some success by getting outside the pocket - especially by working off play-action to Greene, who Penn State had to respect due to his continuing success.

But for as great of a comeback win this is for the now-bowl-eligible Hawkeyes, it's a million times as disappointing for Penn State.

This one will hurt for a very long time.

Penn State was four minutes - plus one break in the BCS - away from a shot at the national title. Somehow, it all came crashing down. Everyone whines and cries about the BCS, but the top of the college football landscape usually shakes itself out exactly like this.

To go 12-0 in the regular season requires you to be nearly perfect for months. Penn State had been just about flawless for nine games, plus three quarters on Saturday. The Lions then turned in arugably one of their worst quarters of the year, complete with several mental breakdowns (the holding penalty, late interception and a 15-yard penalty on Iowa's final drive).

Because of those few glitches, Iowa won the game - and Penn State lost a shot at something incredible.

Penn State's Costly Meltdown originally appeared on NCAA Football FanHouse on Sat, 08 Nov 2008 19:45:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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