IOWA CITY, Iowa - Bill Belton didn't appear to be bothered by his ankle injury any longer as he enjoyed the best game of his career Saturday night.
Belton eclipsed his previous career high of 65 yards in the first half alone, gaining 68 yards on only eight carries. He finished with 103 yards and three TD runs - 11, 5 and 3 yards - on just 16 carries (6.4 per attempt).
"It's definitely right back to where I was," Belton said of his left ankle.
Belton broke off a 23-yard run to help set up Penn State's first touchdown, and throughout the evening he looked quicker and more elusive than he had earlier in the season.
"Yes sir," he said when asked if he felt back to normal.
"The line did an incredible job today," Belton said. "They just went out there and basically had a great game up front and got after it and was very aggressive up front."
Iowa was expected to offer Penn State a big challenge physically, but the Nittany Lions easily won the battles in the trenches.
"Just going into the game we wanted to be very aggressive up front, and the line did a great job. All the praise goes to them," Belton said. "They just opened up holes for me, and I just followed their blocking, followed their lead."
The Lions ran for 215 yards - Zach Zwinak added 52 on 16 carries - threw for 289 and piled up 504 yards of total offense. Much of that had to do with the NASCAR attack.
"When you go fast tempo, it's not conditioning, it's just a matter of communication and getting lined up," Bill O'Brien said.
O'Brien was asked if it was Matt McGloin's best game and said, "He played well."
"I have to go back and watch the tape," the coach added. "I think he played a good game, and I think you have to give him a lot of credit. Through seven games, this guy has been prepared. When a guy is in his fifth year, he grows up and understands he only has a few shots left at Penn State. He's done a really nice job. I'm proud of him."
Iowa endures rough night
Kinnick Stadium usually is a tough place to play, but it was tough for the home team Saturday as the crowd began booing the Hawkeyes in the second quarter after PSU took a 24-0 lead. Iowa was shut out in the first half at home for the first time since a 2006 loss to Northwestern.
"Needless to say we're really disappointed with our performance tonight," Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We had a great crowd out there, great environment, and we just couldn't get anything going offensively, defensively, special teams."
The Hawkeyes finished with only 209 yards of offense, just 20 on the ground on 23 carries.
Iowa place-kicker Mike Meyer had made 13 consecutive field goals, but he missed from 49 yards (wide left) in the first quarter and then from 37 yards (wide right) in the second.
The Hawkeyes also had two offensive linemen go down with injuries on the same series. Left tackle Brandon Scherff suffered what appeared to be a serious right leg injury late in the first quarter and was carted off the field. Two plays later, guard Andrew Donnal was helped off the field after suffering a right ankle injury."
O'Brien stays aggressive
O'Brien shows no fear on fourth down, and he even decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 36 with a 31-0 lead in the third quarter. McGloin was stopped short on a keeper, the first time he's failed to get the required distance after converting his first 14 chances this season.
Iowa took over on downs at the PSU 36 and, with the help of a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Stephon Morris in the end zone - on a pass that appeared to be uncatchable - the Hawkeyes got down to the 3-yard line.
Penn State's defense held, though, as Adrian Amos broke up a pass to Keenan Davis in the end zone on fourth-and-goal at the 3.
Ficken's interesting game
Sam Ficken gained some confidence by drilling a 34-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, giving PSU a 17-0 lead. Ficken's confidence probably took a hit, however, early in the fourth quarter.
O'Brien initially planned to go for it on fourth-and-7 from the Iowa 27, but after a timeout, he let Ficken try a 44-yarder. Ficken missed badly, shanking a low line drive that only made it to about the 10-yard line. He's now 4-of-11 on the season.
Iowa is known for its farming, and the biggest theme at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday was the ode to ANF, which stands for America Needs Farmers.
There are several signs on the concourse with former Hawkeye players, such as Dallas Clark, discussing how important farming is, plus the band spelled out ANF on the field before the game. Also, small, yellow, Terrible Towel-like flags were handed out to all fans.
Some fans at Kinnick Stadium had their seats upgraded during a game promotion, and those fans were from Altoona. That's Altoona, Iowa, which is about 100 miles of Iowa City and has a population of about 15,000.
Bench stays on bench
Despite a 38-7 lead in the fourth quarter, Bill O'Brien did not turn to backup quarterback Steven Bench, a true freshman, and allowed Matt McGloin to handle the last three series.
When questioned about it afterward, O'Brien said, "I just didn't feel great about where we were in the game at that point. I thought it was still Matt's game."
It's not the first time O'Brien has passed on giving his true freshman from Georgia a few snaps with a big fourth-quarter lead.
Bench played in the Lions' second game at Virginia after McGloin was injured.
Praying for Paige
Penn State cheerleading coach Curtis White said he and the squad remain hopeful that cheerleader Paige Raque will make a full recovery.
The cheerleaders rotate for road games. Raque was on the trip to Illinois but was not scheduled for Saturday's game at Iowa.
She remains hospitalized at Altoona Regional Health System after falling out of a fifth-floor window in State College on Oct. 6.
"It's still early and we're taking it day-by-day, but we're very positive about her recovery," White said.
News and notes
Penn State's game captains were: FB J.R. Refice, LB James Van Fleet and KS Michael Fuhrman. ... PSU won the toss and deferred, the first time this season the Lions didn't start the game on offense. ... The Lions still have yet to allow a point in the first quarter, outscoring opponents, 66-0. ... DT Jordan Hill led PSU with nine tackles, two for losses. ... Tight ends caught 11 passes for the Lions (including six by Kyle Carter and three by Jesse James). ... RB Akeel Lynch was one of the true freshmen who made the trip. Lynch is redshirting and decided to stay at PSU rather than going to Iowa.
(Compiled by Cory Giger and Neil Rudel)