Party Time, Excellent. To say that Kirk Ferentz lets inferior teams hang around is an understatement; one gambling enthusiast informed me that Iowa had beaten only one of its last 10 mid-major/FCS opponents by more than 17 points, so it was fair to expect something somewhat close. Throw in notorious Ferentz nemesis Dan McCarney on the other sideline, and it's a recipe for disaster, right?
Oh ho ho ho no; Iowa breezed to a 62-16 victory, with its defense scoring more touchdowns than the Mean Green offense in the process. Saturday's game was every bit the party the opener against Illinois State had been, and then some.
That all said: is it possible to be concerned after a 46-point win? Well, anything's possible—but is it ever warranted? Make no mistake, Iowa was never, ever, zip zero nada in any doubt of losing to North Texas, and scoring more points than any time since Brad Banks was hitting the Heisman pose in Northwestern's stupid faces was awfully fun to watch.
And yet, McCarney and North Texas clearly saw something easy to exploit, and exploit they did. Iowa conceded 183 rushing yards (and an even 200 by everyone who wasn't starting quarterback Andrew McNulty), usually on inside reads out of the shotgun. UNT's pair of tailbacks Jeffrey Wilson and Antoinne Jimmerson combined for 180 yards on only 29 rushes, and though neither found the end zone, they were frequently responsible for the 22 first downs North Texas was able to hang on the Iowa defense—just one fewer than Iowa's soon-to-be-lauded offense compiled for the day.
The formula was both simple and familiar: seal the edge, beat Iowa's linebackers to the corner and collect 4-6 yards. Of course, that's asking a lot if your team can't also take advantage through the air, and North Texas had a miserable day there; UNT's two quarterbacks combined to go 16-42 for 167 yards, each threw a pick-six and McNulty also lost a fumble on Drew Ott's strip-sack in the third quarter. But if Joel Stave is better than Andrew McNulty—and if the Wisconsin receivers don't let multiple passes bounce off their hands, as did the Mean Green wideouts—Iowa's defense will find itself in a considerably less enjoyable situation than Saturday's laugher.
Okay, with that out of the way: the Iowa offense is on a totally different level than it was last year. C.J. Beathard completed all 15 of his passes in the first half for 254 yards and two touchdowns; he finished with an 18-21, 278, 2-0 line that'll still delight Hawkeye fans, but just know that were it not for sportsmanship, Beathard could have essentially named his yardage for the day. Beathard worked intermediate routes, led receivers on swing passes with frightening ease and even reminded Iowa fans that he's still got maybe the best deep ball of any Kirk Ferentz quarterback by hitting Tevaun Smith for an 81-yard touchdown on a deep post.
That might not have been Beathard's best sequence, though. On the drive prior, Beathard opened things up with a 15-yard pass to Matt VandeBerg, raced to the line and gave to Jordan Canzeri for a yard, raced to the line again and found George Kittle all alone behind a totally discombobulated Mean Green defense for a 43-yard touchdown.
Canzeri continues to hone his red zone skills, which is a delight; with LeShun Daniels continuing to nurse a sore ankle, Canzeri is the clear top choice to take on the rushing load (egads, the fumbles, though) and his 115 yards and four touchdowns were all well-earned. If Daniels is even incrementally better, that'll help immensely Saturday; the fresher Iowa can have its backfield in the second half, the better the chance the Hawkeyes can poke some holes in Wisconsin's withering rush defense.
It's good to see Ferentz keep faith in Canzeri, even through his continued problems with ball security, though that's a function of necessity. If Ferentz were still sending tailbacks to the doghouse after turnovers, with backups like Akrum Wadley (a notorious fumbleman) and Derrick Mitchell (who botched the reverse inside the Iowa 10 that led to UNT's first touchdown) Ferentz would be one Marcel Joly injury away from kicking the tires on Macon Plewa in the outside zone. Wouldn't be prudent. But we digress.
The Hawkeyes are in for a battle in Camp Randall. And yet, Kirk Ferentz and company sent a message to Wisconsin on Saturday: these kids are ready to play. Should be fun.