Not the 12-0 We Wanted Most, But a 12-0 We'll Gladly Take

So. A month ago, if you'd been told that "12-0" was happening today, you'd probably be getting all giddy and buying a ticket for Pasadena. Of course, that 12-0 didn't come to fruition, on account of the Stanzageddon and all, but we do have the next best thing: Iowa 12, Minnesota 0.

Was it ugly? Christ yes, it was ugly; Iowa was 1-12 on 3rd down conversions, and theirs wasn't even the ugliest offense of the game.

Minnesota's offense, on the other hand, was one of the worst we've seen all season long. The two Minnesota quarterbacks - Adam Weber and MarQueis Gray - combined to go 14-42 through the air for 153 yards and one interception. That's an average of 3.6 yards per attempt, which is melt-your-retinas ugly. Oh, and Weber lost two of his three fumbles. Yes, Minnesota accounted for more yards than Iowa--201 to 171--but they needed 18 more plays to do so, meaning Iowa's own train wreck of an offense was at least more efficient. Sort of.

As for that Iowa offense, what's there to say? They clearly missed Adam Robinson's running ability when he went down with a re-injury of his ankle; he should be back in plenty of time for the bowl, so no real harm done here. But Brandon Wegher, from Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, one of the great town names in America (/Musberger'd), is really not an every-down back yet, and has no business trying to fill that role right now. That's not to say he's a bust or anything nearly as dour; it's just that there's a reason why, if all the tailbacks were healthy, he'd be about 4th or 5th string right now (Jewel Hampton, Robinson, Jeff Brinson, and maybe Paki Bomb). He's just a true freshman. Most true freshmen aren't ready to run the rock 25 times in a game--especially when they're evidently so green with the playbook that they're telegraphing every run play before the snap.

In fact, if this game proved anything, it's that injuries have wrecked any hope or semblance of consistency for the Iowa offense; James Vandenberg was the 20th different player to start on offense for Iowa this season. For the Iowa defense? 15--and two of those extra four starters were at the same position (Greg Castillo and Willie Lowe, for Shaun Prater at LCB). That's remarkably important; continuity is a big deal in a team sport like football, and as much as Kirk Ferentz and his staff preach the importance of the "next man in," with the notable exception of Riley Reiff, there's always been a marked dropoff in performance from starter to backup.

Thus, getting healthy for the bowl game and getting the best possible lineup (Bulaga, Dace Richardson, Rafael Eubanks, Reiff, and Kyle Calloway on the line; A-Rob and Brett Morse in the backfield; Trey Stross, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, and Tony Moeaki as receivers) would be a welcome development for the offense. How many times has that ideal lineup been healthy and starting all at once? Twice: at Wisconsin and about the first 10 minutes of at Michigan State.

And let's not even get started on losing Hampton and Brinson before the season.

Yes, the above lineup is pretty unimpeachably Iowa's best; while Marvin McNutt is obviously talented, he's done his best as the third receiver instead of starting at wideout--think back to Mo Brown in 2002, for example. Unless something bad happens in practice between now and the bowl game, the Iowa offense is going to look a lot better, and it'll be independent of the playcalling (which always looks a lot better when the players can reliably execute it).

As for the defense, they were utterly lights-out; Weber was harassed throughout the day, and it's to his credit that he was "only" sacked five times. The Iowa defensive line combined for 7.0 TFL and 4 of the 5 sacks, and they abused the offensive line so thoroughly that Bob Griese was left questioning everything about the Gopher unit and their commitment to the sport. That was nice.

Really, this was as vintage a 2009 Iowa game as any this season. The offense struggled through injuries to key contributors but put up enough points to take a double-digit lead, and the defense choked the opposing offense to death long before the final whistle sounded. It's never been pretty, but at the end of the day, you cannot argue with this: it's another 10-win season for Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes. Well done, men.  Well done indeed.

Now let's go cook up some steel bacon for dinner.

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