- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2008

IOWA CITY, Iowa | Penn State can’t blame the BCS for this.

The Nittany Lions’ perfect season and hopes of giving coach Joe Paterno another national title were dashed by Iowa’s backup kicker. Daniel Murray, who hadn’t made a field goal since the season opener, hit a 31-yarder with one second left as the Hawkeyes stunned the No. 3 Nittany Lions 24-23.

All the talk about an unbeaten Penn State possibly being left out of the BCS national title game turned out to be premature. A third championship for the 81-year-old Paterno, who has had four unbeaten teams not win titles, is a long shot now.

Shonn Green rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns and Ricky Stanzi bounced back from an interception and a fumble to lead the Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) on their winning drive, which came after Daryll Clark threw just his third interception of the season.

Murray had lost the kicking duties to freshman Trent Mossbrucker and was relegated to kickoffs. But, with wind swirling and strong, coach Kirk Ferentz opted for experience and Murray’s strong leg. He drilled it down the middle, sending Iowa fans spilling onto the field.

“I’ve always dreamed about it,” Murray said. “I kept hoping and hoping I’d get my chance.”

The Nittany Lions were third behind Alabama and Texas Tech in the most recent Bowl Championship Series standings. They’ll drop Sunday; the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth are the Nittany Lions’ main goals now.

“We need to keep our heads up. We can still have a heck of a year,” said Paterno, who again coached from the press box.

Iowa was down 23-14 heading into the fourth quarter, but Greene scored his second touchdown, from 6 yards out, to make it 23-21 with 9:20 left. On the next possession, Penn State looked as if it got a break when Iowa was called for a roughing-the-punter penalty. The Nittany Lions kept the ball and continued their time-consuming march.

But Clark made an errant throw down the middle that was picked off by Tyler Sash, who returned to Iowa’s 29 with 3:46 left. Iowa then caught another break when Penn State was flagged for pass interference on third down, getting the Hawkeyes near midfield with a first down.

Stanzi, who was 15-for-25 passing for 171 yards, hit Derrell Johnson-Koulianos at the Penn State 15 with 18 seconds left to set up Murray’s kick.

“I just keep having that turnover recurring in my head over and over,” Clark said. “I can’t get it out of my mind.”

It was Iowa’s first win against a top-five team since 1990. The Hawkeyes suffered through two seasons of mediocrity after finishing No. 8 in the country three years in a row. They had lost four games this season by a total of 12 points.

Clark was 9-for-23 for 86 yards and Derrick Williams and Evan Royster each ran for touchdowns to lead Penn State (9-1, 5-1), which had to settle for Kevin Kelly’s field goals on three different trips inside Iowa’s 20.

Penn State held the ball for nearly 36 minutes and ran almost twice as much as it threw. It worked for the first three quarters. Penn State’s Tyrell Sales picked off Stanzi on the opening drive of the third quarter and Kelly’s 25-yard field goal put the Nittany Lions ahead 16-7.

Iowa’s offense finally woke up, reeling off a 73-yard drive that Stanzi capped by finding a Johnson-Koulianos for a 27-yard touchdown pass to pull the Hawkeyes within 16-14 with 4:43 left in the third. But Stanzi fumbled away the ball and Iowa’s momentum just two minutes later, giving Penn State the ball deep in Iowa territory. Williams’ 9-yard touchdown run put Penn State ahead 23-14 heading into the fourth.

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