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Iowa 34, Tennessee Tech 7: Well, That Was... Something

SMA promised you a more thorough recap from me, but unfortunately that's not going to be quite the case here. In part, that's due to reasons both personal (a family visit prevented me from watching much of the game live) and technological (a corrupted DVR recording prevented from watching all of the game later). But it's also because between the weather and the opposition, I'm not convinced we really know that much more about this Iowa team than we did a few days ago.

It was a win and it's difficult to say much else about it -- adding any sort of descriptive adjective seems disingenuous. It certainly wasn't an impressive, take-no-prisoners performance where Iowa blew a lower-division team off the field (see: Maine in 2008, perhaps). Yet it also wasn't a bowling shoe ugly win that felt more like a loss (see: Northern Iowa in 2009). Iowa led 27-0 at halftime and Tennessee Tech's lone score came deep in garbage time in the fourth quarter, with Iowa rolling out backups in waves. Prior to that, they had only two decent drives, one that ended in a 89-yard Shaun Prater pick-six right before halftime and one that ended in a missed field goal in the third quarter. It's not like this was a game Iowa fans really had to sweat at any point.

What did we learn? That Marvin McNutt (6 catches, 140 yards, 2 TD) and Prater (that pick-six) are very good players? I'm going to go out on a limb and say we knew that already. That Iowa's offensive line can do pretty well against a smaller, less talented defense (at least until they start loading nine men into the box)? I don't think that was exactly shocking. That James Morris (10 tackles, 1 INT) is one hell of an exciting talent at linebacker? Again, not quite breaking news.

James Vandenberg seemed pretty good (13/21, 219 yards, 2 TD/0 INT), but not razor-sharp (although his numbers were also a little deflated by multiple drops from his receivers -- god willing, that was weather-related and not a return of the 2006-2007 dropsies era). Marcus Coker, on the other hand, looked far better as a receiver than a runner yesterday... which is kind of a problem since he's the heart and soul of Iowa's running game. Whether it was the weather, nerves, or something else altogether, he needs to regain his late 2010 form in a hurry -- Iowa isn't going to win too many games when he rushes for just 42 yards on 11 carries. And the starting defensive line was inconsistent, but mostly good after a rocky start where their best play was the Tennessee Tech center's inability to consistently snap a football. (The second-string, on the other hand, sounded pretty rough.)

In fact, if we "learned" anything, it's that this Iowa team is going to be walking a pretty fine line in terms of talent and depth this year. Most of the starters looked at least solid, but few of the reserves covered themselves in glory (although McCall gave us a brief, tantalizing glimpse of depth at the running back position before You Know Who struck him down). So pray for good health for Iowa's 2011 starters; based on these (admittedly way too premature) returns, the second and third strings of the depth chart are full of not ready for primetime players.