UNIVERSITY PARK - One kick and one brick left Penn State feeling sick, leading to two of the more significant losses in Nittany Lion history.
They occurred just four months apart and were courtesy of the same opponent - Iowa.
That makes this week's football game all about revenge.
Mirror file photo
Daryll Clark was just 9-of-23 for 86 yards in last year’s loss to Iowa, which knocked PSU out of the national title race.
"We're very excited about the game," Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark said.
The kick - a 31-yard Iowa field goal with one second left - kept PSU out of last year's national championship game. The Lions, 9-0 and ranked No. 3 at the time, likely would have played in the title tilt against Florida if not for the road loss to the Hawkeyes on Nov. 8.
Hawkeyes have PSU's number
Iowa is 6-1 in the last seven meetings against Penn State.
2008 L, 24-23
2007 W, 27-7
2004 L, 6-4
2003 L, 26-14
2002 L, 42-35 (OT)
2001 L, 24-18
2000 L, 26-23 (2 OT)
"It's college football, it's [important] every single game," Lion safety Drew Astorino said. "You lose one game ... that knocks you out of the title hunt."
The brick occurred at a terrible time during Penn State's regular-season finale in basketball.
Iowa's Jake Kelly launched a 3-point shot that clanged off the backboard with 55 seconds left in the second overtime. The Hawkeyes got the luckiest of bounces, however, as the ball caromed off the glass, hit the rim and dropped through the net, giving them a 71-67 lead.
The Lions never recovered from the ugly, lucky shot, and the Hawkeyes went on to win, 75-67. That huge loss against an Iowa squad that finished 5-13 in league play ended up keeping Penn State out of the NCAA Tournament.
"If we had won that game, it would have solidified our hopes," Lion guard Talor Battle said.
"It was very disappointing," guard David Jackson said. "[Kelly] hit some tough shots, but that happens in basketball."
The Lions were squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble heading into the Iowa game March 7. Had they won, they would have tied for second in the Big Ten and been the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
There's no way the NCAA selection committee could have denied a tournament bid to the second-best team from arguably the nation's best conference.
"You just remember those games that potentially kept you out or could have got you in," forward Andrew Jones said.
The players also will always remember not one, but two lucky 3-pointers Kelly hit in crunch time.
"I just remember us buckling down, playing great defense," Jones said. "The air goes out of you a little bit when shots like that go down."
The basketball team, which went on to win the NIT championship, may have played great defense in its key loss, but the same cannot be said about the football team.
The Lions blew a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter and let Iowa drive for a game-winning field goal in the closing minutes.
The Hawkeyes took over at their own 29-yard line with 3:46 to play. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi was sacked by Jared Odrick and Abe Koroma for a 5-yard loss, and Iowa faced third-and-15 from its 24.
"The big play probably was Scirrotto over the top of the back," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.
Three-year starting safety Anthony Scirrotto hit receiver Anthony Brodell early for pass interference, giving Iowa a first down. Scirrotto enjoyed a solid career for Penn State, but his legacy may always be that one play.
"Scirrotto went for the ball," said Astorino, a starting safety this season.
That's what Scirrotto was supposed to do. But a player of his caliber with so much experience should have known better than to hit the receiver early in that situation.
What the defensive back is taught is: "You make a clean play, get back on the ball, you go for the interception," Astorino said. "You be aggressive, that's what we're always taught. And the refs made a call."
It was an easy call, too. Scirrotto clearly hit the guy early, even if Penn State fans don't want to admit it.
It was a bad, bad play, but Scirrotto did not lose the game all by himself. Penn State's entire defense was responsible.
The pass interference penalty only put the Hawkeyes at their own 39-yard line, and they continued to move downfield into scoring position. The Lions' secondary played too soft and had no answers for Stanzi, who drove his team to the PSU 14 to set up Daniel Murray's field goal that lifted Iowa to a 24-23 win.
"We lost contain a couple of times," Bradley said. "Everybody says we didn't go after them. We did go after them. They got a couple of turnout routes on us. ... They spread us out and worked us. And [Stanzi] got hot and made some good throws."
Clark played poorly in the game, completing just 9-of-23 passes for 86 yards with an interception. He also fumbled on PSU's third play and lost 19 yards back to the 1 before he recovered.
Clark had suffered a concussion two weeks earlier against Ohio State and could not finish that game. The Lions had a bye week following the victory over the Buckeyes, and Clark's play against Iowa led many people to believe he was still feeling the effects of the concussion.
Clark insists he was not.
"Going into that game I felt fine," he said. "I wasn't dizzy, I wasn't drowsy or anything like that. I just played bad. ... That's something that cannot happen this time around."
Joe Paterno said the Hawkeyes "deserved to beat us last year."
Iowa has won six of the past seven meetings against Penn State, but JoePa doesn't put much stock into that.
"I don't look back," Paterno said. "The team we're going to play this coming Saturday is not the team we played last year or the one we played five years ago. We're not the team we were last year. We're a different team. We've got to make plans with what we have as opposed to what they have."
What Iowa will have is a tough, physical football team. The Hawkeyes always do.
Whether Penn State is prepared for that type of opponent after beating up on three lightweights remains to be seen.
One thing that's certain is the Lions owe the Hawkeyes some payback. But even if they win Saturday, it won't ease the sting of the two devastating losses suffered last season.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.