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Penn State averts Iowa upset with walk-off TD pass on 4th down, as time expires

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Iowa’s heart breaks on the game’s last play.

No. 4 Penn State survived an upset bid at Iowa on Saturday night, 21-19. The Hawkeyes took a four-point lead with 1:42 to play, but quarterback Trace McSorley led the Nittany Lions on a game-winning drive in the nick of time. Here’s how it happened.

The decisive moment: a walk-off touchdown pass as time expired, on fourth-down throw from Trace McSorley to Juwan Johnson.

Watch that video with the sound on, and you can hear the life get sucked out of Kinnick Stadium. It’s as devastating for Iowa as it is awesome for Penn State.

A 35-yard Akrum Wadley run had given Iowa the lead with 1:42 to play. McSorley then led a 12-play, 80-yard drive to keep Penn State unbeaten.

The Nittany Lions led for most of the game. After Penn State started the scoring with a field goal and a gift safety, Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley closed the first half by throwing a 21-yard touchdown to receiver Nick Easley. PSU pulled back ahead in the second half, before the teams traded late leads.

The teams traded punts and did field position-jockeying all night. Each team finished with one blocked field goal.

This touchdown pass might feel familiar for Penn State fans.

In 2005, an elite Penn State team lost an unbeaten record when Michigan’s Mario Manningham caught a TD pass as time expired:

I’m not a Penn State fan, but I bet the shoe is more fun on this current foot. This was as exciting an ending as there’s been all season.

Hawkeyes fans are getting used to these kinds of nights.

Albeit with different end results.

That’s because Iowa has made a recent habit of upsetting great teams that pay visits to Iowa City. Its last three home games against top-five teams:

  • a 14-13 win against No. 2 Michigan in 2016.
  • a 37-6 win against No. 5 Michigan State in 2010.
  • a 24-23 win against No. 3 Penn State in 2008.

The Hawkeyes’ last top-five home defeat had been in 2006 against Ohio State.

The Hawkeyes also beat No. 15 Nebraska at home last year, when it looked like Nebraska was a really good team. They had two road wins against ranked teams in 2015, when they went undefeated in the regular season. It’s not anything new for Iowa to give good teams fits, no matter how good Iowa appears to be at any given moment.