A 6-4 final? Yes, it actually happened

Punter David Bradley's safety was one of the scoring highlights in Iowa's 6-4 win over Penn State. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Ten years ago, on Oct. 23, 2004, Iowa and Penn State kicked off at two minutes after noon in front of more than 108,000 at Beaver Stadium. It was a muggy day after recent rain, 55 degrees, and cloud cover gave way to sunshine in the second half.

Penn State entered after four losses in five games, none by more than two scores and none in which it allowed more than 21 points. A week before Iowa came to Happy Valley on this Saturday, the Nittany Lions lost at home to Purdue and Kyle Orton, 20-13.

Iowa entered on the opposite trajectory, ranked No. 25 after consecutive home wins over Michigan State and Ohio State.

The week of the Penn State game, though, was unlike most for the Hawkeyes. Iowa practiced for two days and traveled east without its sixth-year coach, Kirk Ferentz, who flew home to Pittsburgh on Wednesday after the death of his father.

It made for an emotional week and an emotional afternoon as Ferentz rejoined his team.

On the field, sophomore quarterback Drew Tate was an emerging star, on his way to first-team All-Big Ten honors. But Tate struggled at Beaver Stadium. Frankly, everyone on offense - for both teams - struggled.

And that's why this game is memorable.

Iowa won 6-4, its lowest score in a victory since 1957.

Penn State mustered only a pair of safeties -- the second conceded by the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter.

Here's a look back, through the eyes of Iowa and Penn State players and coaches:

Iowa safety Sean Considine: "At that point in the season, we were just trying to find opportunities. We had injuries in the backfield and a young, inexperienced quarterback. And Penn State wasn't sure of its quarterback. They were going between Zack Mills and Michael Robinson, so I think the stars kind of aligned for defense."

Penn State defensive end Matthew Rice: "Ten years? That was one of the greatest games ever. That really put a stamp on our identity and who we were as a team on the level that we struggled a lot on offense that year, but we always performed like a family on the field."

Iowa went on to win a share of the Big Ten title, despite losing its top four running backs to injury. Against Penn State, walk-on Sam Brownlee started and carried 16 times for 30 yards. Penn State continued to struggle, eventually losing six in a row before two wins to end the season at 4-7.

But the Nittany Lions used their defensive success as a springboard to an 11-1 finish in 2005.

Iowa went three-and-out after the opening kickoff and snapped the football over the head of punter David Bradley, who kicked it out the end zone. Penn State was on the board, leading 2-0.

Iowa receiver Ed Hinkel: "We were trying to do anything we could to move the ball. We knew the defense was playing well. So it was one of things where we didn't want to screw it up. Let's not commit a turnover in the red zone. Let's not give them the game."

Penn State cornerback Anwar Phillips: "At that time, as a whole defense, we thought we could be something - but we weren't sure exactly what we could be. We wanted to see what we were made of, so, walking away from that, we were happy. We pretty much dictated whatever we wanted them to do."

PSU's Robbie Gould missed a field goal, his first of two, from 51 yards, and Iowa drove 58 yards, stalling after a 4-yard pass from Tate to Hinkel on third-and-goal from the 12.

Kyle Schlicher kicked a 27-yard field goal. Iowa led 3-2.

Iowa's Ed Hinkel: "When coach let us know that his father had passed away and he was going to head to Pittsburgh for the rest of the week, I think that locked us in, especially on defense. But offensively, we couldn't get anything going. Couldn't get in a rhythm."

Penn State special teams player Donnie Johnson: "It was a long game -- a long, boring game. All I remember is just punts."

The teams traded punts in the second quarter until Considine intercepted Mills at the Iowa 39. Considine, who missed time earlier in October with a foot injury, said he had to talk the Iowa coaches into letting him travel to Penn State. Slowed by the bad foot, he returned the interception 51 yards to the Penn State.

"It was a long game -- a long, boring game. All I remember is just punts." Penn State's Donnie Johnson:

From there, Iowa went nowhere, settling for another 27-yard field goal by Schlicher to lead 6-2 at halftime.

Iowa's Sean Considine: "I was basically playing on one foot. I wasn't able to practice, so I studied a lot of film. We just had a group of guys who were really into that, and we had Penn State dialed down. A lot of things we saw on tape were exactly what we saw in that game. We ended up jumping routes four times for interceptions."

Penn State's Anwar Phillips: "They were just acting like typical Iowa. So to our understanding, man, it was no love lost. They were going to come in and act the same way and just be the same, old Iowa. I never recall a friendly Iowa game."

The Nittany Lions gained 56 yards in the third quarter, but Gould missed a field goal from 25 yards after Donnie Johnson blocked a Bradley punt.

Iowa gained 17 on three drives before Tate hit Clinton Solomon for a first down. The quarterback then rushed for 9 yards to midfield but fumbled when hit by Tamba Hali. Tim Shaw recovered -- a spark for Penn State.

It drove to the 14 before Antwan Allen intercepted Robinson at the 2-yard line.

Again, Iowa stalled. And Ferentz made the call to take a safety after Rice sacked Tate at the 1-yard line on third down. Penn State cut the deficit to 6-4.

Iowa's Ed Hinkel: "I remember I agreed with the decision to take that safety, because of the score and the way the defense was playing at the time. It was the best move for us."

Penn State's Matthew Rice: "I can definitely remember looking up at the scoreboard and being like, 'This is more like a hockey game or soccer game.' Never in my tenure of playing did I see a score like that, not on TV or anything. And we almost won it on defense, which was literally like our mindset in the fourth quarter."

After the second safety, Robinson was intercepted on Penn State's first play by Jovon Johnson. Iowa ate five minutes of clock. Bradley punted, and Robinson fumbled on the first play. Chad Greenway recovered, and Iowa held it for the final 2 ½ minutes to win.

Iowa's Sean Considine: "For the defense, it was a dream come true, to win a game 6-4. The four points that they scored were given to them by us. At the end of the day, Iowa won. You're just looking to win any way possible, and that's a prime example of the team finding a way. It was ugly, for both teams, but we won and felt great about it."

"You really have to have some unique circumstances for that to happen. And these guys on offense are getting too good now. I don't think that'll happen again." Former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley

Ferentz embraced his son, Brian, a junior center, as time expired. Many of the Hawkeyes took note. The scene in the locker room was equally emotional.

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz: "It was obviously a unique circumstance on the personal level. But you deal with that the best you can. Everybody did a great job of getting ready for the game that week."

So in today's age of college football, with video game-like offensive play, it's difficult to imagine another 6-4 finish. Five years ago last month, Auburn beat Mississippi State 3-2. Could it happen?

Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley: "Never say never, but I don't think so. I just don't think so. You really have to have some unique circumstances for that to happen. And these guys on offense are getting too good now. I don't think that'll happen again."

Iowa's Sean Considine: "There's not a square inch of the football field that isn't used anymore. Putting people in space creates a lot of problems for the defensive side of the ball. We're not too far removed from when everybody looked like Navy out there. There's a lot of things you can do to stop an offense like that."

Penn State's Matthew Rice: "No, no. I can't even see that happening in Little League now. It's just the purest level of the sport. I don't think I'll see that score or a game like that again. No person could put money on a game like that happening again."