Lions and Hawkeyes are each seeking first Big Ten victory
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Justin King is not happy with the way Penn State's season is playing out.
Consecutive losses in the Big Ten Conference have forced King and his teammates to readjust their goals.
- Who: Iowa (2-3, 0-2) at Penn State (3-2, 0-2), 3:30 p.m.
- Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
- TV: None.
The Nittany Lions are one of four winless teams in the Big Ten basement at 0-2. Another is Iowa, which visits Beaver Stadium tomorrow in what is essentially a desperation game for both teams.
"I can't speak for them," said King, a junior cornerback. "I know it's important for us to get back into a positive frame of mind. The season's not over. We have to play for a bowl game and play for ourselves. We just need to go out and just have fun with each other every weekend."
Penn State has dropped five consecutive decisions to Iowa, including four in a row at home.
However, the Hawkeyes carry a three-game losing streak into this year's game. They have dropped their last seven conference games overall.
King was a senior at Gateway High School the last time Penn State lost its first two Big Ten games in 2004. He admits he has had a hard time coping with the narrow losses to Michigan (14-9) and Illinois (27-20).
"You got a lot of emotions tied up," King said. "You experience some things that you never experienced before in college football. I never lost two games in a row -- a lot of us have never lost two games in a row.
"You get frustrated, you get upset, you get angry, but all you've got to do is look in the mirror and you've just got to keep moving. There's no fingers being pointed in this case. Everybody's got to have confidence in themselves and make this a team effort."
Penn State coach Joe Paterno understands King's frustration. Instead of finishing 10-2 or 9-3, like most predicted in the preseason, 7-5 or 6-6 is suddenly looking more realistic for the Lions, who will play four of their next five games at home.
"I think any time you lose two in a row, two games that you had a chance to win, and you didn't come up with a couple plays in the clutch where you could do it, you start to wonder a little about yourself," Paterno said.
King said Paterno had a stern message for the Lions when they gathered for practice this week.
"He said we got to start growing up and growing up fast," King said.
Penn State is allowing 178 yards per game through the air and the secondary has surrendered just three touchdown passes.
Iowa has struggled with its passing game since sophomore starting receivers Dominique Douglas and Anthony Bowman were suspended in August and charged with unauthorized use of a credit card.
Junior tight end Tony Moeaki dislocated his elbow and broke a bone in his hand against Wisconsin two weeks ago and receiver Andy Brodell tore a hamstring, leaving four freshmen as the top receivers.
Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 308 yards in a 38-20 loss to Indiana last week, but he was sacked nine times.
Penn State is tied for fifth in the country with 19 sacks, but the Lions' run defense has been shaky the past two games, along with the tackling.
"For the most part, I feel like everybody has lapses here and there," King said.
King has made 11 tackles, broken up six passes, intercepted two and recovered a fumble. He will graduate in December and many expect him to skip his senior year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.
"I'm not going to answer any questions about that," he said. "I got the rest of the season to worry about."
NOTES -- Eastern Illinois announced it has signed a contract to play Penn State Oct. 10, 2009, at Beaver Stadium. The Division I-AA school will receive a $450,000 guarantee. ... With backup linebackers Navorro Bowman (right ankle) and Dontey Brown (left elbow) out for tomorrow's game, Chris Colasanti, Bani Gbadyu and Josh Hull have been getting the majority of the snaps in practice.
First Published October 5, 2007 12:00 am