My favorite stat from Iowa-Iowa State game is as follows.
The Cyclones first drive, which got all the way to the Hawkeyes one-yard line, spanned 13 plays and went 66 yards. Over the remainder of the 44 plays Iowa State ran, it gained just 116 yards.
That’s definitely some defensive dominance.
Of course there’s another stat I really like too — the final score of 13-3. Okay, well, maybe it would have been nice to see a few more points and maybe it was more than a little ugly, but that’s four straight wins in the CyHawk series, the longest streak of Kirk Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa.
“Just overall, it was a tough-hard nosed game, both teams, especially defensively. We were playing it hard, making it difficult on the opposing offenses,” Ferentz said after the game. “So I think that just kind of ties in with the history of this series. It’s always unpredictable. We’ve had all kinds of games in the history of it.”
Big picture, Iowa’s 2-0 with a more-than-winnable game against Northern Iowa to finish out the non-conference slate. Beating Iowa State often feels — to me, at least — a marker that a good season just might be in store.
In this particular case, it also helps this might have been the most talented Iowa State team Iowa’s played since Seneca Wallace was quarterbacking the Cyclones. They’re going to win some games this year — well if Kyle Kempt’s injury isn’t serious or nagging, that is.
Iowa will too and the praise should rightly go to defensive coordinator Phil Parker. No one can run on the Hawkeyes at the moment — 61 rushing attempts against them so far have resulted in 118 yards. That’s 1.9 yards per carry, which likely will put them top-10 nationally in that category when all the stats are finished being compiled tomorrow.
That’s damn good.
Talented running back David Montgomery — who Kirk dished lavish praise on this week — was held to 44 yards on 17 carries. No one else on Iowa State had more than three rushing yards.
Iowa’s defensive line and the mixed bag of marbles that’s playing at the three linebacker spots are, of course, the critical part of this. Linebacker Nick Niemann had a sack and so did defensive tackle Matt Nelson. A.J. Epenesa had two, as well as a forced fumble and pass breakup.
They’re big, deep and mean as hell.
That nasty pass rush is making life a whole lot easier for Iowa’s secondary, which again played well. Hakeem Butler, a talented wide out who I think will probably end up in the NFL, had just three catches for 35 yards. The catches number was tied with five other Cyclones for a team-high, while the 35 yards was more than anybody else on that squad had.
Offensively, however, I don’t think it’s time to break the glass and slam a fist down on the panic button. That said, the button is in plain sight and the inkling during the first half to go over and set of the alarm was there.
Iowa ran 28 plays in the first half for a grand total of 120 yards. Not, uh, anywhere close to ideal. And for the second week in a row, the Hawkeyes had just three points after the first 30 minutes of game time.
During that period Nate Stanley completed just 5-of-11 throws for 26 yards, with those five completions going to two tight ends and a fullback. By the end, Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson again dominated Stanley’s targets, finishing with four and six catches, respectively.
Iowa’s wide receivers were a bit better in the second half, especially on a 13-play, 83 yard drive in the fourth quarter that ultimately led to a touchdown and some breathing room. Brandon Smith had a 30-yard catch, who had gone seven games without one.
Iowa’s offense is out in the wilderness and I’m just hoping it doesn’t take 40 years for them to figure out how to pass the ball. Because while beating UNI won’t likely take a 200-plus yard game, it’s been a while since we’ve had that — last year against Ohio State, if you’re wondering about the specifics.
While beating Wisconsin won’t necessarily take more than 200 yards passing (Iowa hasn’t done that against the Badgers since 2014) it certainly might help. And while I don’t want to overlook the Panthers, well, I’m already looking to Wisconsin.
And while that scary Hawkeye defense will keep things close, it’s going to take a little more offensively if Iowa has any inclinations of competing for a division title. Right now, the defense is good enough to do that.
But, like so many of the past years, the offense needs to catch up. Because if they don’t, we’re going to have a whole bunch of what-ifs this season.