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Iowa Hawkeye Football Position Grades: Michigan State

Hawkeyes do enough to win despite injury to Cade Mac

Michigan State v Iowa
Coop makes another house call
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

I will admit, after the injury to Cade McNamara I did not think we were going to win Saturday night’s football game. The Hawks played just well enough to improve to 4-1 (1-1) on the season beating Michigan State 26-16. Cooper DeJean showed the nation why he is one of the best football players in the college game.


QB: C+

First, the bad news. Cade McNamara appears to be done for the season. He seems like such a likable young man and a terrific leader. It pains me to see any players injured. Hopefully, he can get completely healthy and be our QB1 again. Cade looked good early on, going 3 for 5 for 46 yards. Deacon “Boom Boom” Hill came on and did an admirable job of spreading the ball around the field. Hill was 11 for 27 for 115 yards. He threw one interception and one touchdown. Iowa’s pass catchers didn’t do Hill any favors by dropping six footballs. Deacon didn’t appear to be in over his head. He played with confidence and Brian Ferentz allowed him to make throws. Losing Cade hurts, but Hill’s ability to move a little bit (and he’s a monster) allows Iowa to run some boots off of play-action. Cade was injured in every game we saw from him, and defenses knew he didn’t want to run. A healthy Hill (knock on wood) at least allows Iowa to utilize more of our playbook. [Not sure if this is a good thing or not]

RB: C-

Iowa was once again without its top two running backs. The Hawks’ backs rushed for 66 yards on 22 carries (3.0). Leshon Williams’ fumble was scooped up for a Michigan State touchdown. Iowa’s offense is not good enough to put the ball on the ground. It will be a boost for the Hawkeyes to get a healthy Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson back.


You wonder if, in the back of Kirk’s and Brian’s minds, they thought, “That’s why we don’t throw the ball to our *&$% wide receivers!” Oprah would have been, “You get a drop! You get a drop!” Deacon Hill maybe puts a little extra pepper on his throws than Cade, but if it hits you in the hands, you have to catch it. Diante Vines dropped three balls. It felt like every pass catcher on the team failed to haul in a catchable ball. Iowa’s offense can’t afford to make these mistakes. A fellow BHGP writer mentioned this position group has gone years without expecting the football. That was tongue-in-cheek, but there may be something to it.

TE: B+

Erick All caught four passes for 67 yards and a score. His 58 yards after the catch were very impressive. All has some serious wheels and strength. He and Luke Lachey will carry TEU’s torch to the next level. All did have a drop on an easy ball to catch.

Steven Stillianos had three catches for 25 yards. Iowa’s tight ends may end up having even more production if we keep targeting our wide receivers. Defenses will need to honor the possibility that we won’t throw 80% of our passes to our tight ends.


First, the good news. Iowa’s quarterbacks were sacked only once against the Spartans. Cade McNamara was injured when he needed to elude a pass rush. Iowa’s offensive line did not seem to exert its will on Michigan State. The Hawkeyes averaged just 2.3 yards on the ground.


DL: C+

Iowa’s defensive line is not all that I imagined it would be this year. The Hawk defenders are not getting to opposing quarterbacks to the level I was expecting. This group seems like it could be close, but right now it appears we are missing an edge rusher in the mold of Leroy Smith to go old school. Coach Kelvin Bell has some bodies, and it feels like Aaron Graves or Anterio Thompson will have a breakout performance soon. Iowa’s defensive line did have four QBH.

Leroy Smith brought some pressure from the edge

LB: A-

Jay Higgins packs his lunch every day and goes to work. He is Iowa football personified. Iowa’s two primary linebackers, Higgins and Nick Jackson, accounted for 12 and 10 tackles respectively. Jackson had a TFL and a forced fumble.


Iowa’s defensive backs played a good game against Noah Kim and the Spartans. Kim threw the ball 44 times. The Hawks did not allow a score through the air, and Iowa’s back four/five intercepted three passes. Jermari Harris and Sebastian Castro each had one, and Cooper DeJean ended a Spartan scoring drive with this interception.

Xavier Nwankpa was an active, physical presence; he recorded eight tackles on the day. Nwankpa also had a TFL and a pass breakup.

Quinn Schulte also collected eight tackles, including 1 TFL.

Special Teams: A

Iowa is built to win games with its special teams. All Americans like Desmond King, Jack Campbell, and Cooper DeJean attack special teams like a dog protecting its yard. Coop won the game with this punt return. I have watched this multiple times and his tackle-breaking cutback at midfield astounds me.

Drew Stevens was money. He converted on all four field goals including a bomb from 53 (it felt like it would have been good from 90). Tory Taylor flipped the field multiple times, averaging 48.9 yards a punt. Between Cooper DeJean and Tory Taylor, punting is most definitely winning.

It wasn’t pretty, but Iowa’s defense allowed just nine points. The Hawkeye special teams once again won the game for us. If Iowa can put together both run blocking and pass protection, and our receivers catch the football, our offense can be serviceable. It’s not always pretty, or fun, but it’s great to be a Hawkeye!