Who needs kickoffs? Iowa did what above-average teams do to really bad teams. Illinois is really bad. After a tough-to-watch 28-0 shutout of the Illini, Iowa’s defense seems to have regained some of its form after being mollywhopped by Penn State (thank you Saquon Barkley for publicly saying the defense quit in that game). The offense still leaves a lot to be desired, but to quote former Hawkeye player and NFL coach Dennis Green, “they are who we thought they were.” The team is centered around its defense and without the top two receiving targets, a patchwork OL, a struggling CJ Beathard, and Greg Davis still somehow calling plays, it’s just not a team that will score very much. Defense will have to carry the team the remaining two games. So how did they do it yesterday?
What went right?
Defense: Obviously, in a shutout, you have to start with the defense. Just look at the Illinois drive chart BTN showed during the 4th quarter:
(They had two more drives, which ended with a fumble and turnover on downs respectively)
Illinois had two drives of 10 plays or more. And only three drives of 20+ yards. And the stat that should get the Illinois OC fired: Illinois had as many punts as they did first downs (10). Ouch. The defense also forced three turnovers (if you include a fumble on the kickoff). Once again, Anthony Gair and Manny Rugamba didn’t miss a beat when filling in for injured starters. Oh and this includes the defense needing to play an extra possession due to Illinois NEVER kicking off. Just good stuff all the way around.
Running Game: I am happy for LeShun Daniels. Wadley obviously had the shining moment in front of the entire nation last week, but lots of fans forget that Daniels is more than serviceable. And being a senior, after a career riddled by injury, I’m happy to see him dominate like he did yesterday. Daniels had 159 yards on 26 carries and 2 TD’s. Wadley was no slouch either, going for 82 yards on 13 carries and a TD. It should be noted that the rushing game really took over in the second half after Illinois lost their 2 best defensive linemen. Be that as it may, Iowa wore out the Illini D and by the fourth quarter, the holes opened up by the OL were big enough for a truck to drive through.
How’s this for balance: Akrum Wadley has 861 rushing yards and 9 rushing TD’s; LeShun Daniels has 855 yards and 8 rushing TD’s (not to mention having two huge TD runs called back by penalties).
Not getting hurt by turnovers: Iowa gave away a fumble and an interception yesterday, at seemingly important times of the game. No matter. Wadley fumbled at the one-yard line, but the defense immediately forced a punt in which Riley McCarron took it to the house. Before that, CJ Beathard threw an interception and the Illini started at the Iowa 37. The defense forced a 3-and-out and punt. Not allowing the turnovers to change the complexity of the game really helped Iowa maintain control.
What went wrong?
Passing game: It’s hard to find stuff to whine about when you shut out a conference rival. Having said that, the passing game is still trash. Beathard threw for under 100 yards for the second straight week (fun fact: Beathard has thrown for fewer than 100 yards in four games as a starter...and has won all of them). Beathard only had 9 completions and only four of those were to receivers. It is pretty frustrating that guys like Jay Scheel have been passed over on the depth chart. On the other hand, I’ve thought guys like Davonte Young and Adrian Falconer had potential and it is good to see them on the field.
One bright spot is Noah Fant. Fant looks more than able to become next in line of great Iowa TE’s. His blocking probably has kept him off the field for most of the season, but his athletic ability demands that he get time. I look forward to watching him get better in the coming years.
Watching the game: Ok this actually has nothing to do with statistics or anything like that. Did anyone else think that this was one of the most boring 28-0 wins they’ve ever seen? The game seemed slow and choppy. The first half was a punting contest. But oh well, we’ll all take a boring win over an exciting loss any day.
Bring on the Bugeaters!