My family and I, along with a few of my friends, were able to make it down from South Bend to West Lafayette for the game on Saturday. I had been anticipating this trip for some time and thankfully the Hawkeyes performance made it worth the wait. The Malort before the game on the other hand could have (and should have) been avoided. But as Drake would say, “you only live once” right?
Anyhow, The Hawkeyes had their most complete performance of the season which means this weeks Stock Watch has quite a few characters earning Stock Up recognition. Let’s take a look.
Welcome to the Big Ten big dog. Johnson backed up a solid performance against a bad Northwestern team with a 200 yard pounding of a Boilermaker defense that had actually faired well against the run this year. As a result, Johnson was listed as RB1 for the first time this season on this weeks depth chart. It’s noticeable on tv that this kid has some giddy up in his step, but witnessing it in person is something else. Johnson’s strides once he hits the open field are so long and the result is even the fastest of opponents being left to eat #2’s dust. Johnson’s emergence has aided this struggling passing game immensely and will have to continue this week against a Badger team who has caught fire of late. If the freshman continues his romp in a game that all of a sudden has some Big Ten West Title implications, he’s going to become an icon in Iowa City.
You can’t mention Kaleb Johnson’s surge without throwing a bone to this O-line. A group that has been ridiculed all year (for good reason) is building its’ confidence with every successful run. The lineup of Richman, Colby, Jones, Stephens, and Plumb needs to remain on the field for the majority of these upcoming games. That group is the main force behind the last two games numbers for running backs which amounts to 340 yards on 56 carries. That’s a whopping 6.07 yards per carry for the Iowa backfield! If the last few Saturdays are a sneak peak at the future of the Hawkeye running game, I’m ready for 2023 right now.
In a game that featured two receivers who left Iowa for the opposition, I was extremely happy to see Nico have a nice game and be rewarded for his loyalty. Ragaini found himself open a couple of times across the middle with room to run, housing one, and nearly another in route to a 56 yard day. Ragaini’s 2nd quarter score was his first of the year and hopefully will open up the door for more. This kid busts his butt every game and possess a bit of a junk yard dog mentality with his rough and tough North East attitude. That’s a refreshing personality to see from this offense when they get him involved.
You ask and you shall receive! A week after talking about how it’s completely unjust for one of Iowa’s all time great tight ends to be without a touchdown seven games into the season, Laporta got himself on the board. Sam had 3 receptions on the drive, all of which were routes that Brian Ferentz needs to go back to. The first catch was a beautifully thrown ball by Spencer Petras on a go route for 41 yards. Letting the former receiver run a route that at times can turn into a “go up and get it” situation is a play I trust the senior to make more often than not. Catch number two came at a crucial point in this game. After being sacked on 1st down, the Hawkeyes faced 3rd and 8 to start the second quarter at Purdue’s 30 yard line. It was the first play into the wind for the Iowa offense with a field goal out of the question. Purdue again ran man coverage and Laporta got across the defenders face on a little 3-4 yard slant. He then immediately turned it up field for the first down. I love the route because it’s an easy throw for Spencer and allows Laporta and his bigger body to get momentum heading up the field. And now my favorite route and one that must be called in mass moving forward. Immediately following the first down slant, Iowa had the ball at the Purdue 16. The ball was in the middle of the field and Laporta lined up on the left side of the line with Diante Vines lined up outside. Ragaini came across the formation in motion to the same side of the field and ran a flat route, while Vines cleared out the corner with a go route. That left Laporta with a one on one matchup against a linebacker and a beautiful void behind Ragaini and in front of Vines. Laporta ran straight up the field and then cut diagonally towards the left pylon in what is called a flag route. Touchdown. If the play always works in the NCAA video games, just run it Brian.
That wind was brutal. It was nasty enough to hinder Purdue Quarterback Aiden O’Connell, one of the better QB’s in the conference. O’Connell only amassed 168 yards on 43 attempts. Heck, CJ Stroud threw for only 76 yards in Ohio. St’s win in Evanston. But Spencer Petras, he’s not effected by the wind. While the accuracy wasn’t exactly brilliant, the 192 yards and two touchdown passes were. Can you imagine what the payout was for a parlay of Petras to throw for more yards than O’Connell, and Stroud plus more passing TD’s than those two combined?! I think we’ll have to tell boilerhawk his weekly “Ponks” need’s to look into this. Anyways, it’s well documented that Spencer simply needs to be adequate for this Hawkeye team to be really good. This performance was adequate, so Spencer finds himself in the stock up club for the second straight week.
Welcome back to the article Seth Benson! With Jestin Jacobs out, Benson was going to have to contribute more vs the Boilers than Phil Parker had probably originally planned. The senior responded in a nice way notching 4 tackles and grabbing his first interception of the season. Benson’s pass coverage got him on the list this week, but he’ll have to be stout against the run against the Badgers Saturday to make it back into the article.
I’m still unsure if Cooper DeJean’s best position is cornerback, but at this point who cares. This kid can play anywhere on the field and be the best out there. On Saturday, he was matched up quite a bit with Charlie Jones, and other than one deep pass completion in the 1st quarter, Cooper dominated. Earlier I spoke about how much faster Kaleb Johnson looks in person. The same can be said about DeJean’s size. Cooper looked like an outside linebacker lined up on the outside. To see him then be able to run step for step with the Purdue wideouts may be the most impressive thing I’ve seen all year.
Mr. Consistent. That’s my new name for Kaevon. I don’t recall ever seeing him be out of place against Purdue. The ability to constantly be in the correct spot on the field led to Aiden O’Connell’s first interception of the game. Merriweather saw Tyrone Tracey coming across the middle and picked him up. Sebastian Castro then was was able to get underneath the route forcing O’Connell to have to get the ball over him and in Saturdays wind, that was a tall task. The ball sailed, and Kaevon was in position to take advantage of it.
Merriweather is quickly becoming one of my all time favorite Iowa players. You can tell he truly enjoys being a Hawkeye and would do anything for the program. It’s been great to see him following up on his goal this year of making an All-Big Ten team. With 38 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, 3 interceptions and a defensive score, I’d say he’s well on his way.
Redemption. What a great way for Riley Moss to close out his career against Purdue. After being exposed his freshman year in West Lafayette, and then not being able to suit up last year because of a leg injury, Moss came into Ross Ade Stadium with a major chip on his shoulder. As the game wore on, I think that chip continued to grow as Jeff Brohm targeted Moss with his game plan for most of the day it seemed. Other than a few penalties, the All-American from Ankeny was up to the task. Moss led the team with three passes defended on the day, and his tight coverage contributed to several more incompletions. Riley is another guy who truly bleeds black and gold and it will be an absolute pleasure to watch him finish out a wonderful career.
There are too many guys playing high level football up front for this defense to single out only a couple. Over the last three games, these are the numbers for the Hawkeye defensive line:
- 10 sacks.
- 16 Tackles for loss
- 171 rushing yards allowed
- 1.74 yards per carry
Those numbers are DOMINANT! What’s even more remarkable is that no one person is the main contributor to these stats. The trio of Deonte Craig, Lukas Van Ness and Joe Evans continues to improve and lead the way it seems. On the year, both Joe and Lukas have 5 sacks while Craig has managed 4. Throw in some hard play from Noah Shannon, Logan Lee and young guys like Aaron Graves, Ethan Hurkett, and Yahya Black, and this defensive line is purring.
I was becoming a little bit weary of this units ability to stand up to teams who’s first priority was to run the football. Their struggles against Iowa St, Michigan, and Illinois were underwhelming to say the least. Now, we get to see just how much progress has been made with the Badgers coming to town. If this defensive line can stone the Badger rushing attack, we may need to have the conversation on where this unit ranks all time in the history of Hawkeye football.
Taylors performance Saturday was the single most impressive performance from a punter I have ever seen. With winds whipping up gusts near 50 miles per hour, Taylor didn’t seem to be affected. In those horrendous conditions, Tory punted 8 times for an absurd 51.8 yard average which included one punt of 70 yards, and another right before half that he drove low through the wind, over the head of Charlie Jones that ended up barely skipping into the end zone. Days like Saturday separate the elite from the rest. Taylor is elite and after getting to witness that performance in person, I can confidently say he is the best Iowa Punter since Reggie Roby.
No complaints from Saturday. Sure I would have liked to see more points in the second half, but the only way Purdue had any chance of winning the game at that point was through Iowa turnovers. Kirk was never going to let that happen. Besides, if I’m going to sit here and whine about Brian’s game plan against Northwestern in 2020 after rushing out to 17-0 lead, I can’t also complain about sitting on the football to preserve a win.
I had said before the Northwestern game that if Iowa could win against both the Cats and Purdue, they were going to win out. Wisconsin is playing better football since then but I’m going to stick with my original thought. If the Hawkeyes beat the Badgers on Saturday, the tone of this season will almost completely flip. Here’s hoping it does.