Iowa Snap Counts: Cain Is Able to Take the Reins

By Dan Smith on October 15, 2019 at 9:00 am
Penn State Running Back Noah Cain
© John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State's gritty 17-12 win over No. 17 Iowa in Kinnick Stadium Saturday was a turning point for the Nittany Lions. It marked head coach James Franklin's first road win against a ranked opponent, and it also showed that the team can win games without relying on big plays. That came in large part thanks to the play of true freshman running back Noah Cain.

Offense (81 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team
QB Sean Clifford (81)    
RB Noah Cain (35) Journey Brown (19) Devyn Ford (17) / Ricky Slade (12)
WR Jahan Dotson (76) Dan Chisena (6)  
WR Justin Shorter (35) Daniel George (24)  
WR K.J. Hamler (75) Mac Hippenhammer (4)  
TE Pat Freiermuth (73) Nick Bowers (29)  
LT Rasheed Walker (58) Des Holmes (23)  
LG Steven Gonzalez (81)    
C Michal Menet (81)    
RG Mike Miranda (43) C.J. Thorpe (38)  
RT Will Fries (81)    
  • Cain Takes Over Late: The team remains intent on rotating its running backs, which makes some sense with the talent and the appeal of having them remain fresh. The benefit in this game was a fresh Cain in the fourth quarter, when he took the game over. He started each of the final three drives of the game. The first (10th overall) was the only one in which he was removed; the drive stalled as soon as Slade entered for him. He did not leave the game after that, earning a touchdown, then icing the game as Iowa ran out of timeouts. They will still rotate, but there is no question who their crunch-time back is any longer.
  • Shorter Returns, Rotates with George: George got the start, but Shorter saw more playing time than George as the game wore on. He had missed most of the Maryland game and the whole Purdue after receiving a targeted hit against the Terrapins.
  • More Two Tight End Action: The team used a healthy amount of two tight end sets, so Shorter and George rotated with Bowers almost as much as they did with each other. Cam Sullivan-Brown remains out with an injury, and the playing time for Chisena, who appeared to mess up a trick play by not knowing the call, and Hippenhammer, who has three drops and no receptions this season, is very small.
  • Thorpe and Holmes Still Involved: In years' past, the team has had rotations on the offensive line entering the season, but allowed one player to grab complete control of the starting job by the time conference play rolls around. That is not the case with Thorpe, who is splitting time pretty evenly with Miranda in many games, and Holmes, who is spelling Walker at left tackle with only slightly lower frequency. Thorpe and Walker were both on the field for the 15-play first half touchdown drive.

Defense (76 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team
DE Shaka Toney (53) Shane Simmons (20) Daniel Joseph (3)
DT Rob Windsor (51) Fred Hansard (18) Yetur Gross-Matos (3)
DT P.J. Mustipher (40) Antonio Shelton (39)  
DE Yetur Gross-Matos (51) Jayson Oweh (25)  
OLB Micah Parsons (62) Jesse Luketa (14)  
MLB Jan Johnson (32) Ellis Brooks (19)  
OLB Cam Brown (60) Brandon Smith (4)  
CB John Reid (67) Trent Gordon (10) Marquis Wilson (2)
S Lamont Wade (63) Jaquan Brisker (48)  
S Garrett Taylor (62) Jonathan Sutherland (14)  
CB Tariq Castro-Fields (65) Keaton Ellis (11)  
  • Tighter Defensive Line Rotation on Windsor's Big Night: He saw more snaps than the team normally likes to give out to its tackles, in no small part because of how well he was playing. It did seem to tire him out, as he was not on the field towards the end of the final Iowa drive that ended in their only touchdown of the game. Reserve linemen Adisa Isaac, Damion Barber, and Judge Culpepper did not play, while Joseph only saw three snaps.
  • Castro-Fields Healthy: The junior corner had left the previous two games with injuries, but went the distance in this one. This allowed the team lean less on freshmen Gordon and Ellis, who had been playing a lot more in the absence of Castro-Fields and Donovan Johnson, who remains out with the injury he suffered against Pitt.
  • Wilson Briefly Appears: Joey Porter Jr. did not play, but true freshman Wilson did briefly see the field in the second half when the Hawkeyes were pinned deep in their own territory. Porter will have to burn his redshirt if he plays again, and Wilson is now one game away from the limit himself. Ellis has already burned his redshirt.
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