Pressure. Last Thursday, I noted that Iowa quixotically thrives against the stronger defenses it faces, that it runs over quality foes in a way that it doesn't against defensively light foes like Iowa State and Indiana. It doesn't make a lot of sense on its face, but it sure does explain why Iowa's 10-0.
Iowa's 492-yard hamblasting at the otherwise stingy Northwestern remains the team's magnum opus, but this game is one hell of a second-place performance; Minnesota came into the game allowing 330 yards and 24.3 points per game (not great, sure as heck not bad), and Iowa calmly laid the lumber to the tune of 506 yards and 40 points in the victory. Dillon Kidd didn't punt until the second half, and the Hawkeyes never turned the ball over and averaged an insane four points per drive until kneeling out the game.
It's good, because Iowa needed all of those yards and points; Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys enjoyed the removal of "interim" from his title by calling an absolutely brilliant game with OC Matt Limegrover, and the Gophers' offensive performance would have beaten all but about 10 opponents they could have faced.
It's just that, y'know, they had to face Iowa.
Claeys will beat Iowa, and soon. Let's accept that reality right now. He's continuing a legacy that kicked the merciless hell out of this team last year, 51-14, and as our friend Hawkeye Gamefilm noticed, Minnesota brought some foreign concepts to the Iowa defense and ably exploited them. Cole Fisher spent a whole lot of time chasing from 5 yards back, and I probably don't need to tell you that's a bad thing for a linebacker to do. Iowa will need to address this before the Purdue game, to say nothing of the next two looming foes.
But my goodness, what a performance by Iowa's offense. LeShun Daniels Jr led the way with 195 yards and three scores, making him the third Iowa tailback to gain that many yards this season (the last team in all of FBS to accomplish this: LSU in 1997). It's one thing to say Daniels gained 195 yards. It's another to have beholden his performance, a stunning combination of strength, burst and agility.
This was maybe Daniels' third-most impressive run of the day?
Of course, you can't conduct a strong run game without a strong offensive line, and Iowa's line bedeviled the Gophers on Saturday. Daniels routinely got to the second level without contact, which is lethal for a guy with his size and speed, and for as talented as Minnesota's secondary is its run support is—and this is a scientific term—ehhhhhhh.
What should be most concerning to Purdue, though, is how well Iowa leaned on its tight ends. Henry Krieger-Coble and George Kittle combined for eight catches and 105 yards on the day, rendering the conversation about OMG Jake Duzey effectively useless. It's not that Purdue is especially susceptible to tight ends, though; it's that Iowa hasn't asked too much of them all year. But with a Minnesota defense that was lacking on linebacker speed and cornerback depth, Iowa identified a matchup worth exploiting and did exactly that. Between the evolving passing game and Iowa's ability to lean on several different tailbacks, it's safe to assume that it'll take one hell of a defensive front to keep the Hawkeyes from imposing their will on the game on offense.
It should be noted, though, that Minnesota was never a serious threat to win this game. The last time the Gophers had the ball in a one-possession game—which is to say, the last time they could have tied or taken the lead—was in the middle of the second quarter, with Iowa up 17-14. The Gophers punted the ball away on 4th and 20 from near midfield and never saw an opportunity to take control of the game again.
Iowa's ability to control the game situation is not an accident, and it is predicated on C.J. Beathard's uncanny ability to keep drives going.
There's a lot to take in on this stat profile from CFB Stats, but the most key is that Beathard throws Iowa to a first down on 3rd-and-10+ 50% of the time—which is a better ratio than he does in any other recorded down situation.
Now, that doesn't tell the whole story on called pass plays, because as you might know, not every called pass results in an attempt. And while we can't parse scrambles and designed runs, we can see how Beathard does on the ground in these same situations, and you'll be just shocked to know he's a stone cold killer rushing the ball too.
Look at that: Beathard is
15-for-17 17-for-19 rushing for a first down on 3rd-and-6 or less, and he's 100% on his three fourth down attempts. Toss that in with his lethal passing on 3rd-and-long, and the message is clear: third down is a jimmer-jamming problem if you're facing Iowa.
Beathard looked great on Saturday. Probably not Heisman great, but maybe championship great. I watched AJ McCarron win a national championship with my own two eyes; it's not like Beathard can't do anything McCarron ever did. If you're going to tell me I'm wrong on that one, that's fine, but it's the middle of November and Iowa is 10-0 and doing things that championship teams do. It starts with the quarterback, every time, and Beathard is doing the damn thing.
Even with the bloodbath behind Iowa in this week's action, we might be in for a CFP market correction this week, one that pushes Iowa down a notch or two. But remember: win, and the Hawkeyes are in. Just. win. out. And if there's anything I learned from the team Kirk Ferentz put on the field on Saturday, it's that they've got the coaching and mental fortitude to do exactly that.
This is great. This is awesome. Go Iowa Awesome.