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KEYS TO THE GAME IN REVIEW: IOWA HAWKEYES AT RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS

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Style points don’t win you a B1G Championship.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

In my Keys to the Game from Friday morning, I said I thought this game would go one of three different ways. This was potential outcome #2:

“Iowa plays similar to how they played last week: sloppy, slow, and soft (I’m sure you can think of some other “s” words to describe it...). This game causes me to say things like “I don’t think I’m going to live to see the age of 25” (my birthday is on Sunday), but the Hawks manage to escape from Piscataway with a victory. We all complain about how poorly they played, but a win is a win and Iowa lives to see another day.”

Nailed it.

Is the Iowa football team living up to my preseason expectations? No.

Are they still the favorites to win the B1G West? No.

Am I frustrated with how they are playing right now? You better believe I am. But when you think about it, all that matters is that this team wins the majority of their B1G games. After this weekend and excluding their matchup with Iowa, I have Nebraska and Wisconsin each going 6-2 in the B1G this season. Iowa doesn’t need to be perfect to win the B1G West. They just need to beat the teams they are supposed to beat. Style points don’t win you a B1G Championship, but winning football games does. Iowa is 1-0 in the B1G. That’s enough style points for me.

Thunder and Lightning

It appears that Thunder (13 carries, 77 yards, 5.9 yards/carry) and Lightning (12 carries, 84 yards, 7.0 yards/carry) have somewhat rediscovered their mojo from the first two weeks of the season. I’m giving Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels, Jr. their nicknames back this week. Daniels had a 75-yard touchdown run called back because of a questionable chop-block penalty call by the officials. It also seems that the coaching staff decided that Wadley should be getting his hands on the football. He had a nice outing in his return to his home state, adding 2 receptions for 38 yards and a rushing touchdown that proved to be the deciding score in the 4th quarter. How good does it feel to score the game-winner in your hometown against a school that didn’t offer you a scholarship? Real good.

Does the Real Iowa Defense even exist?

Apparently not. I think Iowa caught an enormous break in this game when Rutgers wide receiver Janarion Grant went down with an ankle injury after ripping off a 76-yard catch-and-run. Despite Grant’s absence in the 2nd half, the Hawkeyes still allowed 193 yards rushing, including 106 to RB Robert Martin. QB Chris Laviano passed for 190 yards and a score. The defense looked soft up the middle (again...) and didn’t have much of an answer for Grant, who posted 98 receiving yards before his early exit. I know they only gave up 7 points in this game, but we all know that would likely not have been the case if Grant was present for the entire game.

Think positive thoughts. Think positive thoughts. Think positive thoughts. Nope. Still feel terrible about the state of this defense.

Control the Clock

Hey! Iowa actually held onto the football for almost half of the game! The Hawkeyes finally figured out that this defense simply isn’t good enough to be on the field for 37 minutes. They need rest, and they finally got some in this game. Iowa still technically lost the time of possession battle (29:19 to 30:41), but I can live with that.

Extra Special Teams

Ron Coluzzi was HUGE in this game. Iowa had a lot of trouble sustaining drives on offense, causing Coluzzi to punt the ball 7 times. His 294 total punting yards (42 yards/punt) were a key piece to this game. Janarion Grant never got the opportunity at a return while he was in the game, and the Scarlet Knights only attempted to return 1 punt, which resulted in a grand total of 0 yards. Coluzzi had a BOOMING 55-yard punt in the 1st quarter that changed the field position, sending the Scarlet Knights deep into their own territory. I never thought punting the football was sexy. Ron Coluzzi has shown me the light.

Protect the Package

C.J. Beathard came out of this game relatively healthy, but I still don’t like the amount of times he felt pressure in the pocket or held onto the ball. Beathard rushed 10 times for a total of 37 yards, which I think is too many. He also only completed 12/23 passes and posted a QBR of 37.9. This makes two weeks in a row that Beathard has seemed to struggle, and I think it is largely due to poor offensive line play and a lack of talent at receiver. Iowa needs somebody other than Matt VandeBerg to step up, and they need the starting offensive line to stay healthy. Otherwise, they better get comfortable winning games by the score of 14-7.

The Prediction

Iowa is going to dominate this game from start to finish. Nope.

They will win the time of possession battle for the second time this season. No again.

Although still not perfect, the defense will look much improved and will do a nice job containing the Rutgers rushing attacks. Wow, this is embarrassing...

People will once again talk about this team as a B1G West favorite instead of acting like the world is going up in flames. COME ON, JOHN. BE BETTER.

I see touchdowns coming from George Kittle (also known as George Skittles) and Matt VandeBerg on passes from C.J. Beathard, with Wadley and Daniels each adding touchdowns of their own on the ground. 2/4!! That’s 50 percent!!

I don’t have to move to Canada, so that’s good, too. Thank God I was right about this one.

Prediction: Iowa 42, Rutgers 17

Final score: Iowa 14, Rutgers 7