I think we can all be happy with the final result of the Syracuse Experience. They came into Kinnick sore as hell from a homestyle ass whoopin' at the hands of the Washington Huskies , they were thinking all week about the upset that almost was against Iowa last year, and they were well motivated to get after the Hawkeyes. We even fueled them by having a penalty on the opening kickoff, an uninspired first drive ending in a sack, and an 8 yard punt giving them the ball on their opening possession on the Iowa 40-yard line. You could almost hear the collective "Aw Shit!" from the faithful but it wasn't that kind of game and it's not that kind of team. The Hawkeyes are back.
Syracuse ran up the middle for no gain, threw 2 incompletions, had a delay of game, and a punt. They actually moved backwards, as they did on 5 of their first 7 drives. I'm not going to assault you with the numbers, although it's tempting, since they're delicious, but I will point out that Syracuse had 1 yard at the half and no first downs until midway through the 3rd Quarter. Now, we can all agree that Syracuse is terrible. Let's not waste time talking about that. You play the team on the schedule which is made years in advance. There are things to look for even when playing a weak opponent:
- We got in and out of the huddle crisply and quickly. We called our plays, got to the line, and snapped the ball. This is something that has been sorely lacking the last 2 season.
- We were decisive on offense. Not a lot of shifting and audiblizing. We lined up and smashed them in the mouth. This is one of the few times all year when we're physically superior all the way down the line so there's no reason to get cute, and we didn't. We did what we had to do and it was impressive.
- When things did go wrong, Christensen's INT for example, the sky did not fall. His pass was a little behind the receiver and the receiver showed terrible technique in his "attempt" to catch the ball. Jake wasn't happy, to be sure, but he just ran off the field and got ready for the next drive. At no time did he run and scream at his young wideout, nor did he pitch a fit. This showed more maturity and poise than I've seen in an Iowa QB in 3 years. There's a fine line between "competitor" and "crybaby", you either know where it is, or you don't. Jake knows, instinctively, while some guys just don't.
- Effort is the easiest thing to measure on a football field and we showed effort on every snap, on both sides of the ball, for all 4 quarters. This is the most positive aspect I've seen from the defense this season. At times last season, the defense looked like those listless zombies from Night of the Living Dead, lurching around aimlessly, mildly interested in brains, but not willing to rip through a helmet to get to one. This year we're like the defenses of 2002-2004, we're the new and improved, supercharged, brain hungry zombies, with a singular vision to hunt, like in the new, crappy zombie flicks. The defensive starters played just 31 snaps but the transition between them and the second and third teamers was barely visible.
All of that being said, let's not get too carried away with ourselves just yet. How will we respond when faced with a more talented team? How will we respond the first time Damian Sims fumbles inside our own 20? How will we react when we're trailing by 10 in the first half? We shall see. I will say this, if our defense plays this hard all year we'll compete with everyone on the schedule and in the Big 10, the team with the better defense wins 100% of the time. Things are about to get good.