You may have heard the Hawkeyes had a game yesterday. They won. Patrolling the interwebz reveals that there is a bit of discomfort within the fanbase. Unfulfilled expectations of a 30+ point beatdown with plenty of reserves in the second half left some fans wondering if the #17 Hawkeyes lived up to its hype. So let’s take a look. What went right and what went wrong in the Hawkeyes’ opening game?
What went right?
Special Teams: I will actually start with what I thought was an underrated aspect of the game. News flash: Ron Coluzzi has a leg. The graduate transfer boomed touchback after touchback on kickoffs and had three punts for a respectable 41.7 average, with a long of 50 yards. I wasn’t crazy about the rugby style punt since it seemed to take away from his natural power. Regardless, any potential return game that Miami had was neutralized. And then Keith Duncan was 6/6 on extra points and had a field goal. New Kirk didn’t let him kick a 35ish yarder in the second half when he opted to go for it on 4th and 6, but I think that is more on Kirk than Duncan.
Running Game: The two-headed monster of Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels took care of business. As expected, the offensive line imposed their will on an overmatched front 7 from Miami and pushed Wadley and Daniels to 22 attempts, 204 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Not a lot to report here, other than in watching the Iowa State game, they really struggled to stop the UNI rushing attack. Granted, UNI is a spread rushing attack instead of power-style. Regardless, Iowa should have a solid advantage here next week.
Hard hits and fumbles: The Hawkeyes forced three fumbles, which made up for allowing way too many yards. I didn’t keep a tally, but there were several times where I was impressed with the hard-hitting and physical nature of the Hawks defense. Having said that, Brandon Snyder’s tackling will need to improve. Like a young Jordan Lomax before him, he focused alot on the big hit instead of wrapping up and planting the runner. He will learn, but he may get burned on that a few times against the Justin Jackson’s and Corey Clement’s of the world.
Anthony Nelson and Jack Hockaday: Good to see the newcomers contribute, although Hockaday wasn’t exactly planned. These two have lots to work on, but their ceiling appears to be relatively high. I thought A. Nelson greatly outplayed M. Nelson strictly in the pass rush. Hockaday did an admirable job filling in for Josey Jewell with 6 tackles and a forced fumble.
What went wrong?
Greg Mabin: Ok I hesitate to pick on Mabin here. When the Jim Thorpe award winner is on the other side of the field, you will naturally get thrown at more than him. Having said that, Mabin was pretty late in his break on the ball many times and his size should have been adequate to somewhat neutralize the big Miami receivers. But Mabin was picked on, and picked on a lot. To be sure, a lack of a pass rush and schemes that didn’t provide much safety help didn’t do Mabin any favors. But my fear is that next week, Iowa State will constantly line up Allen Lazard on Mabin’s side of the field and throw to him until Iowa stops it.
Short passing defense: This kinda goes hand-in-hand with the Mabin piece, but despite Miami surprisingly gaining 158 yards on the ground, I was never really worried about that. What was frustrating was Miami being able to comfortably dink-and-dunk its way down the field, the way many inferior opponents have been able to do against Iowa in the past. Allowing 424 yards to a team that was near the bottom of the MAC last year is pretty indefensible. I would throw a caveat in here though. With Jewell’s almost-immediate ejection, the defense was forced to run a 4-3 base, cover 2 nearly every play the remainder of the game. I can only recall maybe one blitz from Iowa the entire game. Iowa’s DL is not good enough to generate a solid rush on its own, so it will need some help. UNI was able to trash ISU’s inexperienced OL by blitzing the crap out of them. Once again, I fear Iowa will not play that game and exploit that weakness.
No play action or Kittle: The offense was kept pretty vanilla, in the same way the defense was. Fortunately, the offense was further along than the defense at this point. The offense in the first half looked sharp and crisp. And then Old Kirk made an appearance and kept everything simple in the second half. One of the more frustrating things for me was next-to-no play action and only one target to George Kittle. Those are two very important weapons in the Iowa offense arsenal and they were not used nearly enough, in my opinion. Of course, Kirk and Greg Davis may have just been content with the running game doing its thing and going from there.
All in all, it was a win, although the feeling was kinda ‘meh.’ No rational fan was ever really worried, but we all wanted to see a bit more probably. Bring on the Clones next week and give new coach Matt Campbell a proper introduction to Kinnick Stadium.