Maybe I jumped the gun a bit last week when I declared the Hawkeyes’ season “a massive disappointment”. I predicted that the Floyd of Rosedale game would be one that Iowa would lose and give us little hope for the rest of the season. Well, there is a reason that I never bet on Hawkeye games. They are just too damn unpredictable. Despite Iowa only winning by a touchdown, it really felt like a game that Iowa was pretty firmly in control of. The defense all of a sudden showed up and looked somewhat like an Iowa D we are used to. The offense was still pretty bleh, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
A win is a win. We said that after we escaped Piscataway with a 14-7 win over Rutgers. Michigan just won in New Jersey, too. Except they beat Rutgers 78-0, while allowing two first downs and 39 yards of offense (not a typo). So, enjoy the win, Hawkeyes. Things are about to get a bit more challenging
What went right
Defense: To put it bluntly, Iowa is not going anywhere without being able to stop someone. Clearly, the offense has loads of issues. Iowa will not blow out any of their remaining opponents like they did Iowa State. If Iowa is going to win, they are going to win ugly defensive slugfests. Minnesota’s running game had me considerably worried coming into the game, considering Iowa was getting gashed for 183 yards/game on the ground. Iowa was able to control the line of scrimmage for the most part and the secondary was pretty locked on to their receivers. The defense forced nine three-and-out’s and three turnovers. Outside of the Northwestern game, the scoring defense is actually doing well despite the excessive yardage given up. It’s up to the offense to give the defense some breathing room.
Shuffling Offensive Line: It was a small change and there really isn’t any way to statistically measure how much more effective today’s starting OL lineup was than prior weeks. You won’t see me call out players individually hardly ever, but Cole Croston has had a few forgettable weeks at LT. Taking him over to RT, sliding Boone Myers to LT, and Ike Boettger to LG seems to have been a bit more effective. It took the OL a few series to gel, especially in the run game, but overall the pass protection seemed much more adequate (one sack) and the running game started to wear down Minnesota in the second half. Overall it was better, but it’s still a far cry from dominating OL’s we’ve seen under Ferentz.
Short passing game: I liked that the Hawkeyes were trying to expose the Gophers’ loose coverage on several WR screens. When the OL has lots of question marks, you need to get your QB some help by getting the ball out of his hands. Iowa did ok by trying to attack the sides to open up some lanes in the middle for the RB’s. But now that we’ve given the passing game a little bit of props...
What went wrong
Drops: C’mon man. Officially, the Hawkeyes only had three drops. It sure seemed like a hell of a lot more. I think Greg Davis had the right idea by trying to expose some of the softer coverage and taking the 4 or 5 yard chunks through the air. But drops have become a pretty big issue for an already underperforming WR unit. It is not so much the number of drops, but like the penalties, they seem to come at the most inopportune times. I remember one in particular by Riley McCarron that helped stall a drive that was progressing fairly well.
Chop block before half: I don’t like to point to any one play as a criticism of the whole team, but the poorly-timed penalties have got to stop. Iowa had good field position with a little less than a minute left before the half. A completed pass had them with a first down up around the 50, but the play was called back and left Iowa with a 2nd and 25 from their own 20 yard line. They proceeded to take a knee and go into halftime, knowing they’d get the ball the next half. These penalties right around halftime are becoming a very disturbing trend there’s not a lot to say other than the Hawks need to get it together at that crucial time in the game.
Wasted field position: For the second week in a row, the Hawkeye offense repeatedly squandered excellent field position after returns and turnovers. The Hawkeyes ran 30 plays in Gopher territory and only had one touchdown to show for it. It’s these missed opportunities that are going to come back and haunt the defense. The defense is not good enough to keep bailing its offense out against better teams.
It wasn’t pretty. And it definitely wasn’t sexy. But a win is a win. Go Hawks.