This Hawkeye team man. This HAWKEYE TEAM! I wonder what the cost on all of our health has been this year watching this team either find ways to lose early in the year, only to come out in the back half of the schedule and find ways to win? I for one was DYING on Saturday as I absorbed everything that this years iteration of the battle for Floyd threw at Hawkeye fans. Early happiness quickly turned into worry. Worry turned into self esteem issues. Self esteem doubts turned into all out misery and loathing. And then, I was immediately joyful again. What living creature on planet earth experiences these emotional roller coasters on a weekly basis!? At the end of the day, this is the life I chose, so I ‘m ok with it. And for all the national pundits who continue to mock this program for the way it wins football games as if winning a game one way counts more than winning the way Iowa is right now...
Onto Stock Watch.
Last week I called Jack Campbell a “leader of legions”. After his performance Saturday, I’m ready to revise that to a “legend amongst legions”. Campbell’s heroics in the fourth quarter in Minneapolis have vaulted him to the top of the list of linebackers to play at the University of Iowa. Ever. I’m not old enough to have ever watched Larry Station live, but I don’t have to be. Jack Campbell is the greatest linebacker to grace the gridiron at The University of Iowa. Every week this season, I have been fortunate enough to sit I my table and write a few words about this man, and each time, I am at a loss. The entire 2022 senior class has been the reason why this team is a home win against Nebraska away from a second consecutive Big Ten West Title, but still, they all look to Campbell. Another 10 tackles Saturday pushed Jack across the century mark for the second consecutive season. The greatest Iowa linebacker of all time deserves to be a consensus All-American and I am fully ready to rabble rabble outside the house of the powers that be if he is not.
Even though the All Big Ten tight end only managed 15 minutes before having to exit with a leg injury, Sam Laporta made his mark on the game. Sam led both teams in receiving yards with 95 coming on only four receptions. His first play of the game gallup for 58 yards set the tone for a 1st quarter that saw the Hawkeyes dominate both sides of the football. After the first drive resulted in a field goal, Laporta caught a crucial 4th down pass from Spencer Petras and rumbled for 24 more yards to the Minnesota 24 setting up an Iowa score. Hopefully the senior gets to take part in his final home game at Kinnick Stadium against the Huskers. He has been the only consistent offense for the team all season and to lose him for anytime would be a huge loss. But...
... the Hawks still have The Bull. When Laporta went down, Lachey stepped up. Luke led the Hawkeyes in receptions with 5 and he would turn those opportunities into 77 yards. Next to his performance against the Wolverines, Saturday was one of his best in his young career. More of a true tight end build than Laporta, Lachey can take a beating across the middle. This was evident on possibly the biggest offensive play of the game for the Hawkeyes when, following an interception by Jack Campbell in the 4th quarter, Lachey caught a 33 yard pass up the seam, took a shot from a gopher saftey, and hung onto the ball. A few plays later, Iowa would wrap the game up with a Drew Stevens 22 yard field goal. If Laporta misses the game vs the Cornhuskers, the Hawkeyes will need Lachey to have a big game if they are to make it back to Indy.
It wasn’t great, but it was what the Hawkeyes needed. Iowa fans have been clamoring for a stat line like this for a while from Petras. Spencer was 15/24 for 221 yards and no TD’s but also no picks. Would it have been nice to get a passing score? Sure, but I will take a 62.5% completion percentage outing without a turnover any day of the week. Spencer’s 9.2 yards per completion is also a great number for this Hawkeye offense. A majority of those came from short passes turned into long gains but it all counts the same. If Iowa gets that stat line two more times from Petras with a few touchdowns sprinkled in, Iowa may turn this season into something truly special.
Dejean had another nice statistical day adding 7 more tackles to his season total. I have him on this list however for his ability to run down Mo Ibrahim on countless occasions. Every time Mo broke loose, Cooper would come up from the bottom of the tv screen, run him down, and prevent a touchdown. In a game decided by three points, that type of effort deserves recognition. Dejean will have to be sharp this week as Nebraska brings a decent passing attack into Iowa City led by quarterback Casey Thompson and Tre Palmer.
The Aussie makes his way back onto the list this week after booting 4/5 punts inside the Gopher 20. Taylor ended the day averaging 42.4 yards a boot. That’s not nearly his best performance in a Hawkeye uniform, but considering how cold it was in Minneapolis, his performance deserves praise. Factor in also that Gopher punter Mark Crawford only netted 31.7 yards a punt and you again begin to see how these Hawkeyes continue to win down the stretch.
I don’t know what Kirk was doing at the end of the ball game, but it didn’t matter. Drew Stevens is a killer. The freshman has shown tremendous poise all season long and his rocket for a leg just might win him a Groza award at seasons end. This is another area of the game where we as Hawkeye fans have become spoiled. One only has to look to the West in Ames to see what a season looks like if your special teams is lagging along with the offense. I’m incredibly excited to watch Stevens for the next few years as he should continue to get stronger. Hopefully the Hawks don’t need him vs Nebraska, but if they do, this kid is going to come through.
I think this is the first time I’ve criticized the defense this year. With that being said, it was not a very good performance Saturday. As a whole, you can’t fault a unit for giving up only 10 points, but man they were gashed on the ground. If I was told before the game that Minnesota would grind Iowa to the tune of 312 rushing yards while averaging 6.2 yards per carry, I’d have thought the Hawks got smashed. Mo Ibrahim was a one man wrecking ball against the Hawks continuously allowing Hawkeye defenders to over pursue on their angles, only to cut back for 5-8 yards seemingly the entire game. After a performance last week that made me feel like Iowa proved themselves against a good back, I’m starting to think now that Wisconsin’s line is hot garbage. Against good running teams, the Hawkeyes have not been able to stop the oppositions run game. It might not burn them this week against Nebraska, but if they win, it will need to be buttoned up for the Big Ten championship.
I’ll end this stock watch after that last sentence. It truly is remarkable to think about where this Hawkeye team was only a month ago. It will be interesting to see how this squad is remembered as time begins to pass. For now, they have two more games to figure that out.