Did...did we just have fun?
For the first time since Iowa’s 41-10 week 3 win over Western Michigan, Iowa football was actually fun to watch. There was no gnashing of teeth. No unnecessary grind (ok, maybe a little grinding). That was Iowa just executing what Kirk Ferentz wants - complementary football, a balance between offense, defense, and special teams. For one Saturday, Iowa did that, and against a team sporting what was allegedly a top 10 defense.
Iowa was so dominant they made Rutgers look like Buttgers for a day. They were back in all their glory - false starts everywhere, giving up chunk yardage, generally getting obliterated in the trenches, a comical interception, snaps when the quarterback wasn’t ready - they were atrocious today, and it’s slightly amazing they made it to 6 wins.
The biggest development for the offense was Deacon Hill. Going into Saturday, he was statistically the worst quarterback at the FBS level. He was at a 41.6 completion percentage and a 79.8 rating. Those were almost unimaginably bad numbers. Then he’d sprinkle in the bad turnovers with bad decisions. The play in which he rolled away from pressure and had legitimate running room...only to walk back into a sack was one play (fortunately for him, Rutgers held on the play so the sack didn’t count.) The pick before halftime was another. That was a disaster of a throw. He telegraphed the throw the entire way, and while he’s looking at Seth Anderson the whole time, Nico Ragaini was breaking toward the corner and that’s where the throw needs to go. That throw MUST go into the end zone yet he’s throwing some wet noodle shit that he’s lucky wasn’t a pick-6. It was a really long throw, it’s a bad route overall cutting it off at the 3, and he didn’t get the normal Rick Vaughn heat on it. Forget about the curveball, Ricky. Give him the heater.
No heat on that throw, sadly.
But damnit - the dude made up for that with some real throws today. The throw up the seam to Zach Ortwerth? That was a great throw by The Deaconater. He converted a third down to Leshon Williams that was a laser of a throw, right on the money that also allowed for some YAC. He hit those quick reads today after missing nearly all of them so far in his career.
These are the tiniest of tiny baby steps. Will we get this every week? Probably not. The track record on this offense is too poor to think they’ve made a turn for the good. I need to see this against more than just Rutgers/Buttgers to believe in Deacon Hill. But for a single day, Iowa looked like a real offense, Deacon Hill looked like a real quarterback, and Iowa was not the punchline offensively that they’ve been since 2021.
- Seriously, Deacon Hill settled in and was pretty good on the whole, providing Iowa with their first 200-yard passer since the Ice Bowl in Minneapolis last year (12 games ago; come on...) Now, he really struggles throwing to his right. Look at this chart, provided by our own Thad Nelson.
Regarding that last pass. I've shown over and over that Deac just doesn't throw wide to the right well once beyond 5 yards. It's by far his worst throw. And to go there in a big situation was just really poor. pic.twitter.com/KbtxjoGLSw— Thad Nelson (@tnels20) November 11, 2023
They didn’t run as much designed to that area after the pick and that’s for the best. When they did, it was roll outs and on shorter routes. Good job by Deacon converting those, and good job by Brian Ferentz calling those plays. They made the game easier for Deacon, for once. Why they weren’t doing that earlier in the season is anyone’s guess.
- Brian Ferentz called a really good game, especially the second half. Rutgers looked totally out of sorts in that half. They were on skates the whole time. If Brian had more games like this and the offense was just average, he’d still have a job at the University of Iowa beyond this season. Those 7-5/8-4 seasons would disappear from the ledger. They’d turn into 9-3/10-2, or better, if the offense was merely average instead of historically bad.
- We know plenty of ink has been spilled about how inept Iowa’s offense is. But not nearly enough is said about how salty this defense has become. Phil Parker has done it again. There felt like real slippage last year to this year - still great, but the nightmare scenario of the defense slipping ever so slightly and the offense being unable to make up the lost ground felt like it had been realized. I admit the slippage at linebacker - Nick Jackson looked off it to start the year - and the Penn State game threw me off the scent. Well, take a look at this:
After today's shutout, the Hawkeyes are allowing 3.998 yards per play for the year, which is a fraction behind the pace of last year's defense (3.986) that had the lowest total by any FBS team since Florida State in 2012.— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) November 12, 2023
That is insane. Yes, they play in the wet paper bag that is the Big Ten West. It’s as bad as the Big XII North was all those years ago, and maybe worse. But you still have to play the games and they’re suffocating teams. Since the debacle in Happy Valley - how you doin’, James Franklin fan boys? - Iowa has allowed three (3) offensive touchdowns. Two to Purdue (with one of them in what felt like garbage time) and one to Northwestern. This is exactly what Kirk wants - he got to do the boa constrictor thing. Admittedly, it’s fun when Iowa does that, even if it’s not pretty.
- Special mention to the Kinnick Stadium crowd. They brought it and helped force all of those silly Rutgers penalties. A+ effort from them.
- Welcome to the Show, Kaleb Brown! It’s ridiculous it took that long to get him involved in the offense, but we made it. He had three touches - two carries, one reception - going into today’s game. He was in witness protection for a little while, his transfer seemingly imminent. He had five touches today. He had a nice carry on a jet sweep in which he ran for some physical yards after contact. He had a nice grab on the sideline on the ill-fated series at the end of the first half. He finally got on the scoresheet as a Hawkeye late in the 4th quarter, a play in which he ran through contact again to get into the end zone for the first time at this level. Congrats to him. He looked absolutely elated to get on the score sheet.
- If there is a complaint today it’s Iowa leaving points on the field. The red zone continues to be a problem for this offense. When they get there they must score touchdowns. Too often it’s just a field goal or even nothing at all. The pick before halftime took at least 3 points off the board. The drive that ended with Iowa going up 15-0 featured a fumble from Deacon that resulted in a 9-yard loss, from the 3 to the 12. That drive needs to be a touchdown instead of a field goal.
- The Big Ten West is nearly wrapped up. Iowa won a share of it today and has a two-game lead in the loss column on everyone with two games to play. Northwestern doesn’t hold the head-to-head tie-breaker after Drew Stephens’ three-run bomb in Wrigley. Minnesota has the tiebreaker, but with them playing at Ohio State next week, they are very likely to add to the loss column so they can’t catch Iowa to make the tie-breaker matter (I am still so pissed Iowa lost Floyd of Rosedale to those imposters; that team is a total fraud.) Wisconsin lost to Northwestern in Camp Randall in a game that was 24-3 with 11 seconds left before Wisconsin scored a garbage touchdown (Wisconsin will be a cautionary tale for Iowa whenever Kirk Ferentz leaves the program; the Badgers lost their DNA post-Alvarez/Bielema/Chryst almost immediately. I like Luke Fickell but these losses are bad.) Nebraska lost another game to the Big Ten East and plays Wisconsin next week in Camp Randall so one of them will be eliminated. Illinois can still play spoiler but they have to go 2-0 while Iowa finishes 0-2, and that doesn’t account for other possible tie-breaker scenarios. If Iowa can defeat the Illini on Senior Day the West will be won and the trip to Lincoln on Black Friday won’t mean anything from an Iowa point of view (it might be the difference in getting to a bowl versus staying home for the holidays for Nebraska).
Beat Illinois and Iowa is Indianapolis-bound again.