“How could you not be excited for a game like this?” the redshirt sophomore free safety said. “It's going to be a special environment. Everybody's really, really looking forward to this game.”
Penn State's defense is bracing for its biggest challenge of the year. The Hawkeyes may not be entering the game at full strength, with tight end Tony Moeaki, left tackle Bryan Bulaga and wideout Derrell Johnson-Koulianos listed as day-to-day by coach Kirk Ferentz. And, of course, they won't have the graduated Shonn Greene, whose 117-yard, two-touchdown effort against Penn State last year helped him win the Doak Walker Award.
But they are averaging 364.3 yards and 26.3 points a game through three games, statistics that are just a shade under Penn State's averages. And while quarterback Ricky Stanzi can be erratic, the Lions know all too well how poised he can be in the final minutes of a close game. Last year, Stanzi led a 15-play, 57-yard drive in the fourth quarter that produced the winning field goal.
“We're going to have to play good defense,” Astorino said. “Our front seven is really going to have to come up big. They've been coming up big every game. They've got to take pressure off the secondary, and they have been. They've been doing a great job.”
Much has been made of Iowa's success against Penn State -- six victories in the past seven meetings between the teams -- but the Nittany Lions do have some history on their side. They have won 30 of their past 32 games in Beaver Stadium, their most recent loss coming at the hands of top-ranked Ohio State in October 2007. Their home-field advantage is amplified in “White Out” conditions, and the Lions are expecting the crowd's energy to have an impact Saturday night.
“It's like we have 110,000 people out on the field,” Astorino said. “It's pretty intimidating. I wouldn't want to be on the offensive side of the ball if I were on the other team at Beaver Stadium.”