The No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes got all they could handle from the Kent State Golden Flashes, but another strong performance from the defense and timely plays by the (still struggling) offense still proved enough to propel Iowa to the Win column with a 30-7 win in Kinnick Stadium.
Spencer Petras once again did what he needed to do — nothing more, nothing less, tallying 209 yards and a touchdown on 25/36 passes. He was unremarkable for most of the game, but also did nothing to hurt the Hawkeyes, which is, probably what the coaching staff wants.
The offensive line meanwhile, with the return of Kyler Schott, had its best game of the season, helping Tyler Goodson in turn have his best game of the season as well to the tune of career high yards and touchdowns in a single game, with 153 yards and 3 touchdowns on 22 carries.
The defense, of course, did its job as well, getting seven sacks on the day, forcing a safety and a forced fumble, and making life miserable for Dustin Crum and the Kent State running game all day. They did let the Kent State passing game test their coverage a bit and allowing multiple big plays that made the game way closer than it should have been in the first half, but overall, it was another solid day from the unit who is clearly carrying this team.
Iowa fans were worried about the offense heading into the game, and with good reason. Things looked good on the first drive of the game when Goodson got things going with a big run, but the offense fizzled out, causing an early punt, and it didn’t really get better from there.
The defense, of course, answered quickly with a 3-and-out that clearly showed both the strength of the run defense and the difference in physicality between the two teams, flashy Kent State offense or not.
Iowa’s response on offense? a 3-and-out of their own, and early boos from the Kinnick crowd. But you know what they say: defense is the best offense, right? After an offsides call on Zach Van Valkenburg on 3rd down, Kent State snapped the ball high and ZVV redeemed himself tackling the Kent State QB in the end zone for a safety and an early 2-0 lead. Lol.
A solid Charlie Jones return on the short kick finally opened things up for Iowa’s offense, as Petras flipped the ball to Goodson for a toss to the left that he bobbled and took into open field, giving Iowa a 9-0 lead on a 46 yard touchdown.
Things got interesting on Kent State’s drive in response, with the Golden Flashes finally taking to the air and scoring a touchdown on 3rd and 6 in response, thanks to 48 and 23 yard throws respectively after the run game continued to get dominated.
Iowa’s next drive looked promising, especially with the run game led by Ivory Kelly-Martin...until Kent State forced IKM to fumble and flipped the field, ending the first quarter with a 9-7 Iowa score, and...Kent State with the momentum.
Just like we all thought, right?
Early in the second quarter, both teams traded unsuccessful drives until Kent State remembered that it could gash Riley Moss by throwing, and marched down the field thanks to solid passing from Kent State QB Dustin Crum. Thankfully, after the deep pass, Iowa bumped up its coverage efforts and got bailed out of a possible Kent State FG thanks to an intentional grounding call from Crum.
Iowa’s offense finally started truly moving on its next drive, getting solid production from the offensive line with the addition of Kyler Schott, with Petras making..some throws and Goodson making some solid runs as the team marched down the field, eating massive amounts of clock along the way. IKM fumbled the ball again, but thankfully LaPorta was around to quickly recover it. After eating up over eight minutes of game clock, Petras finally found the red zone and finally found LaPorta in the end zone to give his team a 16-7 lead with 19 seconds left in the half.
TOUCHDOWN IOWA caps a 20-play, 95-yard drive that consumed 8:38. Sam LaPorta on the 5-yard TD grab.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) September 18, 2021
If that’s not a classic Kirk Ferentz drive, I don’t know what is.
“We really needed that,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said heading into the locker room.
Kent State received the ball to start the second half, and despite a roughing the passer call on Logan Lee on third down, the defense was able to halt Kent State’s progress — and were assisted by the fact that the Golden Flashes don’t trust their kicker, and couldn’t complete a pass on 4th and 7.
Iowa looked to have a nice drive cooking, including what seemed to be a solid catch from Tyrone Tracy, until the catch was reviewed and overturned as an incomplete pass. Um, what????? Like seriously, what is this call? Did that even TOUCH the ground?
Terrible ref call HOF contender @BadSportsRefs pic.twitter.com/y9xfOgpGf9— Is This Heavens? (@HeavensFX) September 18, 2021
I've rewatched it 10+ times...there's no way to find an incompletion there...took 3-4 steps after catch, went to the ground w/control, arm hit the ground, popped it loose and it still never hit the ground, no clue what the call is based on— Hawkeye Gamefilm (@hawkeyegamefilm) September 18, 2021
The defense struggled on the ensuing drive, including being called for a facemask penalty, that helped allow the Golden Flashes to get into the red zone. Tensions were high as it looked like Kent State was set to score, until Riley Moss recovered a huge forced fumble created by a Jestin Jacobs tackle near the end zone.
Iowa used that turnover to march right down the field again, capping it off with a 35-yard rushing touchdown from Goodson on a zone read, his second of the day, to bring the lead up to a more respectable 23-7, and giving the Hawkeyes a nice cushion heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter was uneventful except for a beaut of a punt from Tory Taylor. It looked like Iowa couldn’t — or wouldn’t — keep its foot on the gas to truly put Kent State away, until Petras threw a beautiful play to Nico Ragaini for his best reception of the season, which set up Tyler Goodson for his third touchdown of the game.
It was a long, ugly, relatively uneventful game for Iowa. But a win is a win, so we’ll take it. But questions about this offense are not going to go away, and it’s almost certain there will come a time when the defense might not be able to bail them out, time in and time out.
But that day is not today, and we’ll take a win.