Tis the season to be jolly! And jolly I am this morning, indeed. The weekend was just what the doctor ordered. Time off from work, time with family and friends, tons of food, and a glorious day/weekend of football.
1. Big Day for Big Plays
The story of Friday was one of explosive plays. Not from Nebraska, of course, but your Iowa Hawkeyes. Things broke open early when Akrum Wadley did Akrum Wadley things:
I think I can speak for most Hawkeye fans when I say my heart was still in my throat following the blocked extra point. The defense has been solid lately, but I still expected the Hawks to need more than 6 to win. Enter Riley McCarron:
That was unexpected. I was still a little uneasy with the 13-0 lead in the first quarter (which I am pretty sure has been confirmed as the longest quarter in college football history). When Nebraska got on the board in the second, I thought we might have a dog fight. LeShun Daniels Jr. doesn’t like it when I worry. He decided to help:
It was a hell of a day to be in Kinnick. Big plays ruled the day, and oh was it a sweet day.
2. Turkey Trot
Speaking of LeShun Daniels, big dog gotta eat! And eat he did. He got 29 carries to rack up 158 yards and a pair of TDs. Oh, and Lightning? He ate too. Wadley had 105 yards and a TD on just 11 carries. A day after we all stuffed our face with turkey, these guys stuffed their stat sheets with Huskers. The O-Line looked like a well-oiled machine much of the day. Daniels was grabbing 5-6 yards a crack on 1st down and even when the clock was being melted away late, they seemed to have no trouble leaning on Nebraska. It’s what we expected to see all year and we’ve been seeing it play out perfectly lately.
So how does this pair of Iowa RBs stack up? Uhhhh, favorably:
Iowa RB duos— Blair Sanderson (@BlairRIVALS) November 26, 2016
L. Daniels 1,013 yds
A. Wadley 966 yds
O. Gill 920 yards
R. Harmon 907 yds
N. Bell 1,009 yds
T. Stewart 844 yds pic.twitter.com/CW3lBNu2kO
3. Defensive Dominance Continues
On a day when the offense really delivered, the defense once again did their thing. The last three games of the season, we saw Iowa play inspired football. Defenders were flocking to the ball and there was really nowhere to go for much of the game. Things seemed to soften up a bit toward the end, but I think that is at least partially attributable to the lead and an expectation Nebraska would be forced to go to the air.
In the end, the Hawkeye defense held the Huskers to only 217 total yards. 127 yards through the air and only 90 on the ground. There’s really nothing more to say. Nebraska tried to pick on Manny Rugamba. No dice. Rugamba left the game so they tried to pick on Josh Jackson. No dice (OK, a little dice, late in the game, but that kid looked fantastic Friday, IMO). Nebraska tried to run the football with Tommy Armpunt. No Dice. They tried to run with everyone else. No dice. At some point, they gotta learn to not mess with trying the dice. There were none to be had.
With the defense playing this well, Iowa can hang with just about anyone right now. There are still offensive worries (I don’t think Iowa tried to throw the ball more than 15 yards down field once), but they haven’t really mattered the last few weeks. Let’s hope that holds true for one last game in 2016/2017.
4. Senior Sendoff
I’ve been a bit critical of KF lately, specifically regarding some of his recruiting tactics and policies. But I remain an admitted KF apologist. Friday was yet another reason why. On senior day, KF and GDGD did everything they could to give this crop of seniors a day to remember. There was the move to put Daniels back into the game after only a 1-play breather after he had rumbled 50+ yards moments earlier, just to ensure he got the chance at a TD. Then there was this in the 3rd quarter, in a situation we’ve grown to expect Iowa to run 100 times out of 100:
WELCOME BACK GEORGE KITTLE! pic.twitter.com/3xobwkZ0MO— Heavens! (@HeavensHawkeye) November 25, 2016
Seriously classy move. McCarron of course got his early in the game on a long pitch and catch. As the clock wound down, KF and GD went back to their seniors again.
LeShun Daniels untouched for his second TD and icing on the cake pic.twitter.com/6QiCG8ikNA— Heavens! (@HeavensHawkeye) November 26, 2016
It was a special day for a special group of seniors. They will be sorely missed and will leave numerous holes to fill next year. It was great to see the staff do what they could to give them one last curtain call in Kinnick.
KF and staff weren’t so kind as to run Desmond King out on offense for his final home game, so he tried to take things into his own hands:
I’m going to miss that guy.
5. Holiday Time?
So what did Friday mean in the grand scheme of things for Iowa? Well, it could mean the holidays will have a little extra Holiday this year. @GospelofMax breaks down the bowl possibilities for Iowa here, but here’s a sneak peak: it’ll probably be the Holiday Bowl. I know many fans had high expectations coming into the year. There were dreams of a repeat as West Division Champions and a trip back to Indianapolis (I’ll admit I booked a hotel back in July just in case), but the turnaround we’ve seen following the disaster at Penn State (the Hawkeye one, not the unspeakable darkness that I can’t even put into words) may have salvaged the Hawkeyes season. 8-4 isn’t what some had hoped for, but it’s a very solid season and a trip to San Diego for the Holiday(s) would be an excellent way to cap it off.
6. Welcome Back!
After a third strong showing in a row, people are finally starting to take notice. The Hawkeyes slid back into both sets of polls over the weekend. Iowa finds themselves at #25 in the Coaches Poll and #22 in the AP. I have some questions about how teams got to where they are, but all in all, it’s just nice to be back in the national discussion. The Hawkeyes are a little lower than where they began the year (they started at 15 in the Coaches and 17 in the AP) and things didn’t go as expected, but I think we can all agree things ended much better than most would’ve expected if asked a little over 3 weeks ago.
7. Cool as Kulick
Now that we’ve all done our over-eating for the season (let’s be serious, it’s just starting), let’s take a look at some gruesome pictures that make you sick to your stomach.
***SERIOUSLY, IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH, JUST STOP NOW***
Drake Kulick is an American hero. He’s a junior fullback from Muscatine and he won’t be playing football the rest of this season. He is also a God da*@ed man. On Iowa’s first offensive series, he went down with an apparent leg injury. Yeah, it was pretty apparent his leg wasn’t supposed to look like this:
***THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING, THERE IS NO GOING BACK AFTER THIS***
Drake Kulick thanks Hawkeye fans and teammates for their support pic.twitter.com/6se2V0ZE7i— Blair Sanderson (@BlairRIVALS) November 26, 2016
I just threw up a little. But Drake? He didn’t throw up. He didn’t cry. He calmly sat up, pulled his helmet off and asked for a trainer. When he was being carted off, he let his team know a couple things:
1 - I’m a badass
2 - I’m OK
3 - I didn’t break my leg for no sh!t
Indeed. That is the type of man I dream about being. A man with many leather bound books and a library that smells of rich mahogany. A man with a thick, full beard and hair on his chest. A man with a sideways leg and anger in his eye.
In the aftermath, we saw why the UI Hospitals and Clinics are so good.
Seriously, best of luck to Drake Kulick on a speedy recovery. And thank you for inspiring me to be more of a man.