Sure, Iowa just rolled over Eastern Illinois, 37-7. But how much do we really know? What was so important about beating EIU? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.
Nice work, kid. The star of the show, especially in the first half, was tailback Adam Robinson, who has a knack for making the most of the opportunities given to him. Last season, the prevailing wisdom was that Brandon Wegher would win the RB duel and take on a featured role over Robinson. But Robinson showed more of a knack for grinding out yards and breaking tackles, and he earned the starter designation he held for the rest of the year.
Likewise, this year, the thinking is that Jewel Hampton has the physical gifts to overtake Robinson, and the coaches are certainly going to use him in the platoon starting next week. And maybe Hampton will shine and leave Kirk Ferentz no choice but to give him 20 carries. It's possible.
But Hampton's going to have to really bring it, because given the feature role yesterday, Adam Robinson ran his ass off. 24 carries and 109 yards is nice, and the three short-yardage touchdowns were a welcome sight, considering that role belonged to Wegher last season. But more importantly than that, when Ricky Stanzi went down with that tweaked knee (more on that in a bit), Robinson put the offense on his back and carried the ball five times for 36 yards and a score. He broke roughly 3,000 tackles in that spree, keeping his legs churning and punishing anyone who tried to use an arm tackle. When A-Rob scooted into the end zone from six yards out on that fifth carry, he got probably the largest cheer of the game from the sold-out crowd, who wouldn't let that effort go unnoticed. And neither shall we.
Oh yeah, Ricky almost got hurt again. Early in the third quarter, Stanzi rolled out to his right, then planted to make a cut before taking off. Except the cut didn't really take, and Stanzi fell awkwardly on his left leg. He would limp off under his own power, but for Iowa fans, the parallels to just Apocalypse were a little too eerie.
James Vandenberg was fine in relief, but seeing Stanzi come back and go 5-7 on the very next drive was an enormous relief, and underscored what a critical component of this offense Stanzi is. He went 18-23 for 229 and a score (no picks) on the day, and avoided the Ricky, No! decisions that usually crop up whenever Iowa's ahead by 10-14 points. He looked good. And Iowa needs him to stay healthy this year...
...which is is why it was so disappointing to see the offensive line's inconsistency. Look, we know the line was missing starter Adam Gettis and co-starter Josh Koeppel for today's game, and the starting RG was a guy who was a tackle on the game's 2-deep sheet that came out a week before the game. But against EIU, there's an expectation that the offensive line moves the LOS forward consistently, and that didn't happen. They didn't look terrible, mind you, but it seemed as if someone was getting pushed backwards on every other play or so. The left side of the line looked good, but Riley Reiff is not Bryan Bulaga yet, and we don't really have any other mashers. Again, yet--that entire right side of James Ferentz, Nolan MacMillan (or when he comes back, Adam Gettis), and Markus Zusevics have some time and room to grow. But grow, they must--this is not a line that can neutralize an elite front 7.
Back to full strength. The more players that can get back on the field, the better. Iowa was missing two of their top seven linemen, as mentioned earlier, but the absences went much farther than that. Broderick Binns and Jewel Hampton were suspended, and both will bolster their positions substantially starting this week.
Shaun Prater is already running on his hamstring, and if he can make it back for ISU, Iowa will be in much better shape against the passing game. Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo looked decent, we suppose, but as advertised, that Iowa defense really should have kept EIU out of the end zone at least until garbage time. Prater's the best pass defender on the team, and he'll be an upgrade over Castillo if he can go.
Whether Daniel Murray gets healthy or not is largely irrelevant, as there's little difference between him and Trent Mossbrucker, who dresses to kill. Two healthy kickers is better than one, technically, but we're in six-of-one/half-a-dozen-of-another territory here.
All that said, well done. We can criticize the minutiae of this game, but on a macro level, Iowa did exactly what it set out to accomplish: coasting to a win against a cupcake opponent and keeping the playbook largely under wraps before the Iowa State game. Mission accomplished, no? And lest we take all that for granted, hi Ole Miss. Hi Kansas. Hell, hi Oklahoma and Florida; though those two teams were playing I-A teams, they looked like such eye-murder that fans can't possibly be half as optimistic about the season as they were 24 hours ago. This? Ferentz will take this, and so will we.