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View From The Cheap Seats: Whelmed

Defense and Special teams save the day, again...

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Almost nothing about Saturday’s win over Michigan State felt good and, to be candid, I spent most of the game trying to figure out how much bile I was going to spill in the wake of a loss to a team that had fired its coach 4 days before gameday and been outscored 72-16 in its previous two outings. Thankfully, Cooper DeJean had other plans:

“DeJean, dangerous and deep.” Noah Eagle is not my favorite play-by-play man, but he was right on the money there. I don’t believe in prescience, but that followed mere seconds later with “the crowd can sense it” may just be the single most amazing piece of commentary I’ve ever experienced in real time. I know I got a tingle when I saw that line-drive come off of MSU’s punters foot.

Now, before I dive into any further commentary, I want to provide some stats from this classic B1G West showdown:


Team Yards / Carry Yards / Reception Total Yards YPP Turnovers Points off Turnovers
Team Yards / Carry Yards / Reception Total Yards YPP Turnovers Points off Turnovers
Iowa 2.26 7.72 222 3.76 2 10
Michigan State 4.88 7.72 349 3.76 4 7

I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a game that exemplifies the B1G West more than this one. Two bad offenses duking it out to see who wanted to lose more than the other. Two good defenses (one just a little bit better than the other) doing their best to drag their offensive brethren across the goal line, and two special teams units doing just about everything possible to keep their team in the game.

I watched the 30 minute version of this game about 5 times while writing this column and I’m not sure I can find a word, or a combination of words, that encapsulate watching these teams beat each other up for 60 minutes. B1G West fans may need to create a new word to describe the vast array of emotion that occurs during games in this division.

Anger, elation, rage, happiness, apathy, relief, fury, joy, hope, despair. A B1G West fan routinely experiences all of these emotions during a football game, and Iowa fans routinely experience all of these emotions in the span of a single 3 & out finished by a spectacular punt or field goal.

Let’s put it this way, I’m pretty sure most of the plays included in the “full game highlights” were 3rd downs that failed to convert (Iowa and MSU combined to go 5/28 on 3rd down), punts, field goals, and plays that led to turnovers. Yes, my friends, this was an ugly, ugly, game.


Let’s be honest, there weren’t many positives from the offense Saturday night, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the 2nd Quarter drive where Eric All took over the game and willed Iowa to a TD:

All had a solid game (aside from a not so great drop), and watching him drag MSU defenders across the goal line made me very, very happy that he chose to follow his friend and former roommate to Iowa City.

I’d include negative highlights here, but who wants to watch any more bad offense? I will say that I thought Brian Ferentz called a halfway decent game. Sure, there were some bad calls (mostly in the running game), but Saturday was, truly, the first game this year where I felt like poor execution cost us more than play-calling (6 drops, and several really bad choices/throws from both Cade and Deacon). Everyone that has been clamoring for more WR targets (18) got their wish, only to see the WRs have 5 drops and total 6 catches. But for the first time this year, WRs received the majority of the targets (56.25%). Of note, Diante Vines had 3 catches and 3 drops on 9 targets. Not great, Bob.


The Iowa defense was good, but not great, Saturday night. They forced 4 turnovers, didn’t allow a rushing touchdown (they are 1 of 2 teams in all of Division 1 that has yet to allow a rushing TD this season), and didn’t allow a single play longer than 20 yards. They also failed to record a sack (they have not sacked a single P5 QB this year), had problems setting the edge in the run game, had some noticeable coverage lapses, and allowed Nathan Carter to post a 5.4 ypc average on his way to 108 yards on the ground.

The biggest play of the game for the defense, in my humble opinion, was a glorious stuff on 4th and 1 with 9:50 left in the third:

This is a play that Iowa used to make with some regularity, but as of late the line has not been able to hold on QB sneaks. Seeing Higgins dive in over the line (who managed to get incredible leverage at the point of attack) made my heart happy.

The Doughboyz got the job done leading the team in tackles by a 33% margin, creating 3 turnovers, and keeping MSU from hitting on anything deep, but they weren’t perfect. The big issue Saturday was the DLine. They routinely failed to set the edge, couldn’t get to Kim all night, and put on a pretty good display of how not to tackle running backs as they run through the line, not to mention Quarterbacks:

I do want to acknowledge the hit Jay Higgins made to cause the MSU fumble with just under 4 to go because it was a thing of beauty, a pure form tackle. I hope that Tre Mosley is okay, because he definitely wasn’t after that hit.

Special Teams

I’m not sure how many of you saw the moment in the pregame that had all three presenters (aside from OSU alum and Mr. “I hate jokes” Josh Perry) actually wearing black and gold “Punting is Winning” tshirts, but I did, and I kind of loved it (especially as I too was wearing my PiW tshirt whilst sitting on my couch in AZ). I felt seen in that moment.

Obviously Coop’s punt return was the single best moment of the night, but I don’t want to leave the other two bonified stars out here, because Tory and Drew are always worthy of praise.

That, my friends, is a punt from 7 yards deep in Iowa’s end zone that was fielded at the MSU 38. Yes, that is a 69 (nice) yard punt that resulted in a 60 yard net change in field position. Unfortunately, Tory only put 1 inside the 20 on Saturday, but that’s entirely on the offense. Someone needs to tell Brian that if they’re not going to score the least they could do is get to the 40 yard line, so Tory can get those stats up. He’s never going to win the Ray Guy award if he has to keep punting from inside his own 10.

Drew Stevens may leave Iowa City with records (especially if this offense doesn’t improve drastically over the next 2.5 seasons). On the night he was 4/4, bringing his career number to 24/27, and he has yet to miss a PAT (ftr, I just threw a pound of salt over my shoulder). That 53 yarder was good from 60+ yards, easy.

Now this next one, well, it’s the first (and hopefully the last) time that I will acknowledge, and honor, an opposing players effort. This kick from John Kim was a beauty, and if nothing else, we have to give respect where it’s due:

I know Drew could make that kick and with this offense, I won’t be surprised if he boots a 60 yarder at some point this season.

So, Iowa faithful, here we are again. It’s Wednesday and we’re all happy that our Hawkeyes got a W. I’m also sure that we are all less than satisfied with the way said game was won. The offense still sucks (this game actually brought their averages down), the play-calling is still questionable, and we’ve now lost our QB1 and a TE1 for the season (thank God we always have two TE1’s). We’re hopefully getting KJ2 back for the Purdue game, so will only be down one of our top 2 RBs, but we’re stuck with an offensive line that can’t open holes for anyone to run through. That same line showed some improvement in pass pro (only allowing one sack), but it allowed a fair number of hurries, and several QB pressures. So, nothing has improved.

Needless to say, I am worried about next Saturday. I watched an awful lot of the beating that Purdue put on Illinois last Saturday, and while I’m quite sure that Illinois is a very bad team, I’m also fairly sure that Purdue is a lot better than their 2-3 record indicates. I’m confident that Deacon “Hamburger” Hill (my son came up with that one and I’m running with it, because Hamburger Hill is an incredibly underrated movie about perseverance and victory in the face of nearly insurmountable odds) at 100% is better than Cade McNamara at 75%, but I never know what to expect from the offensive line or the WR corps.

I’m hoping that, like the soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, this Hawkeye team can make it up that hill and put down an opponent that is covered head to toe in the same B1G West muck that we are. Iowa is a 2.5 point favorite as I write this, and I do not doubt that this game could be decided by a field goal. Let’s just hope that field goal comes off the foot of Drew Stevens.

As always, GO HAWKS!