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Iowa Football Position Grades: Nebraska

Hawkeyes win 10.5 regular season games in 2023

Iowa v Nebraska
Never a doubt
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

It’s becoming a thing where Iowa pulls a rabbit out of a hat when it seems like they have no chance of winning. If I’m correct, the Hawks only had two first downs in the second half. Yet, Kirk’s Hawks did just enough to win on the road. Ethan Hurkett intercepted a Chubba Purdy pass, Leshon Williams broke a nice run up the middle, and Marshall “Eminem” Meeder came in cold to kick the game-winning field goal. It’s time to embrace our perfectly imperfect squad. We can make fun of ourselves, but nobody else better do so. We’ll come at you like Sebastian Castro throwing Nebby guys around like ragdolls. (See below)

Offense

QB: D

After a few statistically decent football games, Deacon Hill struggled. Hill was 11 for 28 for 94 yards, one interception, and no touchdowns. Hill still puts a bit too much smoke on some of his shorter throws, but he also had two big drops (Ragaini and Brown). I’m worried that Deacon is going to have a bad miss and it will go back for six against Michigan. For the Hawks to have a chance, Hill has to take care of the football.

RB: A-

During the game, I had commented that I thought the Hawks would win if we averaged 3.5 yards on the ground. Iowa averaged 4.1 yards per carry. The Hawkeyes were led by Leshon Williams who rushed 16 times for 111 yards (6.9). Kaleb Johnson had 10 carries for 30 yards (3.0), and Jaziun Patterson had 5 carries for 6 yards (1.2). Williams’ 22-yard run with 15 seconds left set up the game-winning field goal.

WR: C

Iowa’s offense sputtered for most of the second half. Kaleb Brown was dinged in the first half and did not return. Brown had three receptions for 21 yards. He also ran the ball twice for 13 yards. It will be very important for the Hawkeyes to get a healthy Brown back this week. Nico Ragaini was again targeted with 10 balls thrown his way. He caught just two of them for 14 yards. Iowa needs Ragaini to have one of the best games of his career against the Wolverines. Nico has been a great Hawkeye, but he’s left some plays on the table this year. Seth Anderson had one catch for 9 yards.

TE: B-

Iowa’s tight ends did a serviceable job against Nebraska. Addison Ostrenga had three catches for 12 yards. Steven Stillianos caught two balls for 38 yards. Here was a big gain off of play-action.

OL: B

Iowa’s offensive line has been up and down this year. Iowa’s front five had a pretty solid day against the Cornhuskers. Iowa allowed 1 sack and averaged 4.1 yards on the ground. Those are winning numbers. The task against Michigan will be one for the ages.

Defense

DL: A-

Iowa held Nebraska to just 2.5 yards per rushing attempt. Ethan Hurkett led the team in tackles (9), and he made the game-saving interception.

Aaron Graves and Yahya Black continue to have good years. Look for these two to be stars next year for Coach Kelvin Bell. Michigan will be without Zak Zinter (offensive line) as he left The Game with a severe leg injury. It sucks to see anyone hurt. Hopefully Z-Squared (just came up with that - probably the 5000th person to do so) makes a full recovery.

LB: A

We Hawkeye fans are getting pretty spoiled when it comes to linebackers. You can go way, way back to Larry Station, or a little more recently with Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway. The last handful of years we’ve had Josey Jewell, Jack Campbell, and now Jay Higgins and Nick Jackson. These dudes like hitting people, and they are rather good at it. Higgins had eight tackles and a fumble recovery. Jackson had a sack and two QBH. Higgins and Jackson are almost always around the ball, whether sacking the quarterback, forcing/recovering a fumble, or making a key tackle for a loss. Iowa’s ‘backers will need to bring their A+ games against Michigan’s offensive line and Blake Corum.

DB: B

Cooper DeJean is a really, really good football player. Obviously, the Hawks have been without him for a few weeks now. Deshaun Lee filled in again for Coop. The Hawks gave up one big play against Nebraska; it was a 66-yard touchdown reception from Chubba Purdy to Jaylen Lloyd. It was the longest play given up by Phil Parker’s defense this season. It came on a play where Iowa showed a blitz and didn’t recover quickly enough for a ball over the top.

Sebastian Castro continues to have an all-B1G season. Castro had four tackles, 2 TFL, a forced fumble, and 1 QBH.

To quote Shakespeare’s iconic play, “Dumb and Dumber,”

Sea-bass is Bob Sanders/Reggie White

Special Teams: D+

I’m on the record for saying I would love special teams coach Levar Woods to follow Kirk Ferentz when Kirk decides to take up knitting and checkers. I have not been impressed, at all, with our special teams lately. Woods has had our guys firing on all cylinders for quite some time. There were a few good moments. Iowa forced and recovered a fumble on a Nebraska punt return, and Marshall Meeder had his Wheaties for breakfast to just barely get his 38-yard game-winner over the crossbar. Tory Taylor was human on his punts (42.4). Taylor did do an excellent job getting the snap down for the winning kick. Of course, the elephant in the room was the play of Iowa’s kicker Drew Stevens. Iowa’s front is also getting pressure up the middle on kick attempts. This is an area that Michigan will exploit. The Hawks gotta step up. I have faith in our boys. Let’s end with this. And we’ll see you next week in Indy! It’s great to be a Hawkeye!