Hawkeyes win and everything is rosy. It wasn't the prettiest game, but it was Iowa football through and through. The Hawkeyes did basically any and everything they wanted. Yes, there were a handful of frustrating problems that we've seen over and over (onside kick, long TD passes, etc...), but like last week, this was a dominant effort by the Hawks, even though it didn't really show in the final score.
Make Sam Richardson beat you
Iowa's front seven on defense shut down the run from the beginning of the game and Iowa slowly built a healthy lead. As a result, Iowa State only ran it 22 times (there was also a sack and a kneel down in there, so the stat sheet says 24). Richardson looked a step slow coming off of his ankle injury...Paul Rhoads even called him "very immobile." So, there was less read option going on, and more just straight handoffs. Still, Richardson led the team in carries and only averaged 1.5 yards per rush.
The running backs were more successful...James White and Aaron Wimberly combined for 39 yards on 7 carries, which is a respectable 5.6 yards per carry. But they were hardly used.
So Richardson took to the air. He was having a pretty unspectacular day until the final 25 minutes or so of the game. 189 of his 260 passing yards came in the final third of the game. To that point, he was 12/20 for 71 yards with an INT and no TDs.
I'd mostly call this a success by the Iowa defense. The secondary had a few problems again towards the end of the game, but they did make it Richardson's game to win or lose, and he lost.
Finish them off
When Iowa State scored for the first time with about 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, Iowa's lead was cut to 6. After a fairly dominant first half, things were getting a little uneasy. But Iowa responded in a big way. It started off with a very nice kick return by Jordan Cotton who brought it all the way out to the 40. Then Iowa drove right down the field, just pounding the ball. Weisman, Bullock, and Canzeri all had carries on the 9 play drive, and Jake Rudock had two great 3rd down throws (the touchdown pass to Jacob Hillyer and an earlier 3rd-and-8 pick up to Kevonte Martin-Manley).
Then it was the defense's turn to step up and they quickly forced a 3-and-out. ISU only held on to the ball for 58 seconds and didn't gain a yard. After a solid punt, Iowa took over at their own 27 yard line and proceeded to beat ISU's defense into the ground. Iowa went on a 15 play scoring drive that ate up over 7 minutes and featured 14 rushes. The only pass was on a 3rd-and-6 where Rudock found C.J. Fiedorowicz for just enough for the first down. The rest of it was just 2TE and a fullback leading the way from Weisman and Bullock.
Those 2 drives put Iowa up by 20 with just over 7 minutes to go in the game. And while Iowa State was able to score, get an onside kick and eventually score again, those 20 points turned out to be enough.
There's not much to say here. Penalties weren't really much of a problem for either team. Iowa had just 3 for 20 yards and none really had much impact on the game. I think/hope the penalty problem was just a one game thing where maybe Iowa was kind of overlooking the Bears and weren't focused. Now if only that secondary was playing smarter...
Pound the ball
Check and check. Iowa has maybe landed on its identity...just run inside/outside zones all day long. Each week Iowa has increased its rush total: 43, then 57 and 60 on Saturday. It was grinding, pounding, down and dirty football. The Hawks only averaged 3.6 yards per carry and had no run longer than 13 yards. But 3.6 yards per carry will move you all the way down the field, and it did.
The wear and tear on the Iowa State defense didn't wait until the 4th quarter to show up. It came midway through the 3rd quarter when Iowa put together back-to-back long drives to put the game basically out of reach. In the fourth quarter, Iowa only had the ball twice, and they were content to just run a little bit of clock and punt.
I'm still skeptical, but I think this offense may be on to something. The offensive line played really well. Weisman is Weisman. Bullock had some nice runs in the 3rd quarter. The running game is just really solid. Rudock is coming along nicely as well. He makes good decisions. He didn't throw a pick this week (just needs to hold on to the ball a little better).
And, there were some promising plays that looked like Greg Davis might have an idea of how to use a pounding rushing attack to open up the passing game. Iowa's first touchdown was set up by a classic waggle play and Rudock found Tevaun Smith as the deep option crossing the field. The TD on that drive was play-action off the zone-read look. Plus the third down play calling was better. Most of the passes I recall were to the sticks (a welcome change). The horizontal offense isn't dead completely, but most of those quick outs were only thrown when ISU's corners were playing way off.
So, my optimism is starting to creep out again. Around the start of the 4th quarter against Missouri State I tweeted something about how this team might be worse than last year's...but it's not. There is some definite potential here and there are plenty of things to like. And hey, look at how the rest of the Legends division has played thus far.