Like most of you, I woke up today refreshed and excited to football. A week removed from last weeks near heart attack inducing, 12-round boxing match against Iowa State, I (stupidly) had all of the confidence in the world going into “Cupcake Week” in the Big Ten.
That was my first problem. As it would turn out, Cupcake Week transformed into Cupcake Wars for Jim Delaney’s boys.
And I openly mocked it.
But it wasn’t just me. Like most of you, I laughed, and poked, and Tweeted, and ripped Nebraska for leaking fluids down their pant legs against Northern Illinois. I giggled, and Facebooked, and shamed Michigan for struggling with the always tough but vastly overmatched Air Force team.
I should’ve been smarter than that. I should’ve known that the football God’s see and hear everything and they always get their revenge.
Things started off great. Akrum Wadley went over 2,000 yards for his career with the first carry of the game. Nathan Stanley hit Noah Fant on a sweet bubble screen on fourth down to extend the first drive of the game (Brian Ferentz came out HOT in that first drive) and everyone’s favorite try-hard receiver, Nick Easley, capped off the drive with his third touchdown in as many games... or so we all thought.
Unfortunately, it was time for our payback. And payback is always a bitch. It turns out that Easley fumbled the rock before crossing the plane. I’m still of the conclusion that there wasn’t enough evidence (at least that we saw) to over turn that call, but so it went. To make it all much, much worse, the ball squirted out of the endzone on the fumble.
North Texas ball.
It didn’t take long for the Mean Green to show us why they may have gotten their nickname. It took North Texas all of six total plays to span 80-yards for a real score of their own; over half of it coming on a 41-yard scamper by Jeffery Wilson that made both Miles Taylor and Jake Gervase look like they couldn’t play safety in a high school game (something the Iowa coaching staff must have agreed with).
7-0, Mean Green.
The curse was not over yet.
Like the Iowa offense is want to do in these types of situations, Brian Ferentz cooked up a beautiful play (THE WHEEL!) to get Akrum Wadley into a juicy one-on-one matchup on the outside. The finishing result? TOUCHDOWN WADLEY:
Accept it wasn’t. Wadley got penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for high stepping his way into the endzone. I don’t mean to get on my soap box here, but that call is absolute horse manure. I realize that Wadley shouldn’t have done it (I really do) and that he needs to be smarter than that, but come on people. This is a STUDENT-ATHLETE that has done everything right on and off the field for his entire career. He just balled all over Iowa State last week and when Iowa needed him once again, he delivered. To take that touchdown away from him is egregious.
I know that opinion is not just my own:
If you don't want me to celebrate stop me !!!!— Marvin McNutt (@McNutt7wr) September 16, 2017
I absolutely hate this call we are entertainers and get penalized for being good enough to celebrate NCAA change please— Marvin McNutt (@McNutt7wr) September 16, 2017
Well said, Marve.
Anyways, for those of you counting at home, that’s TWO touchdowns called back in the first quarter. WHY DID WE MAKE FUN OF NEBRASKA!? WHY?
Nate Stanley (without Wadley who was thrown into Kirk Ferentz dog house) pushed Iowa right back down the field (again), ultimately making a little luck of his own after a tipped bullet pass that was intended for Ihmir Smith-Marsette landed right in the arms of TJ Hockenson:
7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
After every Iowa fan (both in attendance and at home) did the best and only good wave in all of sports, things looked up. At the worst, the Hawkeyes were tied with North Texas but moved the ball well on the Mean Green. At best, they should’ve been up by a score. Either way, things were... fine.
Things were not fine.
Stanley missed both Matt VandeBerg on a deep play action pass (although it looked significantly better than the overthrows from last week) and Fant (who should’ve left his feet to make a play) on fourth down. After taking over on downs, North Texas goes yard, thankfully stalls out and Joshua Jackson (one of my favorite players on this Iowa team) blew up the field goal unit to keep the game all knotted up:
From here, I honestly don’t know what to say without sounding like a whiny and petty Iowa fan. So, I might as well just lean into the turn, right? Here it goes: the officials were horrendous. I don’t know if they put on their TV Ted-striped shirts or what, but they tried and successfully took over the remainder of the half (and game). I’m being literal when I say that every single series from that point on was riddled with penalties on both sides of the ball that ultimately pushed both Iowa and North Texas into position to score.
This was just part of the weirdness of this game.
After a fumble by Stanley, a game of hot lava that Keegan Render won in spades and a North Texas fumble of their own after the scoop, the Mean Green found a way to score a late touchdown with their back-up quarterback to take a lead into halftime
This just about sums up the first half. pic.twitter.com/XmB7D9mY6b— On Iowa (@GazetteOnIowa) September 16, 2017
14-10, Mean Green.
Compared to the first half, the third quarter was a snoozer. Thankfully, Iowa tends to win snoozers against teams like North Texas. With Wadley on the sidelines with an apparent ankle injury and after a gruesome injury to James Butler’s right arm, Iowa battered their way down the field for a 14-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that ended with a strike on a dig route by Fant on 4th and 5:
Oh, and I don’t want any of you to think for a second that the refs stopped throwing flags during all of this. They threw flags. They blew their whistles. They held conferences in the middle of the field and looked confused about why they threw their flags and blew their whistles. And I’m saying this as a fan of the team that had half as many penalties called against them as the other team. Brutal.
Any who, to start the fourth quarter, much was the same. The well rested Iowa defense was stout and made plays when they had to (along with the officials help) to force North Texas to punt. The offense rewarded them for their efforts, picking right back up where they left off. They put together yet another 16-play, 87-yard touchdown scoring drive that took almost nine minutes off the clock. As a reminder, that’s almost nine minutes without Wadley or Butler or VandeBerg (who also got hurt).
Also, shouts to Ivory Kelly-Martin for his first career score:
I don’t care who Iowa is playing, putting together two back breaking, bully ball drives like that is damn impressive. The line was in sync. The back up, back up running backs delivered when their number was called. And Stanley was poised as hell (not that that should be shocking to anyone anymore). For this team to change up a lot of their offensive personnel this past week (both in practice and on the go during this game) and go out their in the second half — facing extreme adversity on the scoreboard and on the field — and DRIVE like that shows a lot about this team.
After Iowa forced North Texas to punt once again, Iowa bled the clock on their way to another Kelly-Martin score.
31-14 with a 1:47 remaining.
Things did not get any better for North Texas in the up coming 2-minute drill. With seven defensive backs in the game and three down lineman (WHAAAA), Mason Fine dropped back and was picked off by the most underrated player on this team, Joshua Jackson to seal the deal (Seriously, can we start praising this kid more? He was amazing in two phases today.).
This game was weird. The refs were bad. North Texas was a formidable opponent for a half. Brian Ferentz has some back up toys that people can get excited over now. A freshman scored two touchdowns for the second week in a row. And Tyler Wiegers got to play.
Iowa is 3-0. An ugly 3-0... but I seem to remember another time they were an ugly 3-0 and that season turned out to be a ton of fun.
Let’s keep it going. Let’s get weird tonight.