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The Morning After: Progress, I think?

Things were not great, but the act-Hawk Trophy is back home in Iowa City.

Iowa v Iowa State
200 is a big number.
Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

Look at the box score from this game.

Click on that link and you might feel a little sick to your stomach. Iowa finished with an unspectacular yardage total of just 235. 9 first downs to Iowa State’s 19. 3.9 yards per carry. Under 25 points again. The defense somehow being called on again to shut the door on a final Iowa State possession.

And yet, Iowa was weirdly in control of another game in Jack Trice Stadium. That was weirdly comfortable, despite Iowa State cutting the game to 20-13 and having a final last-gasp drive. Football is a weird, beautiful, but ultimately WEIRD game.

We got the full Brian Ferentz experience again. We better lock into that mindset all year. We saw an incredible mix of plays and execution in the scripted portion of the game. Jaziun Patterson took Iowa’s third play of the game 59 yards into the Iowa State red zone, a fantastic set of pulls and punishing blocks. Connor Colby’s block on the edge that sent Iowa State’s Will McLaughlin into the Earth’s crust set the tone, and Iowa scored 10 points on their first two drives (and it probably should’ve been 14; Cade McNamara put a GREAT ball through a tight window to Luke Lachey in the end zone and Lachey had the ball go through his hands).

For a time, we had the same scenario as we saw a week ago. Iowa’s first 15 plays were crisp. You see Iowa’s first drives against both Utah State and Iowa State and it’s easy to get carried away. Turn your TV off at that point - Hawks are rolling! We’re rolling, right?? Iowa had 150 yards of offense on their first two drives. PROGRESS! Iowa’s next 4 drives? 13 plays for 9 yards. NOT PROGRESS, NOT ROLLING! This seems appropriate:

That pretty well captures it. But then Brian kind of pulled it out of the fire again? To his credit, he hit some good calls that kept the chains churning in the third quarter as Iowa took the air out of the ball, Iowa State falling victim to a Kirk Ferentz Special. Twice Iowa hit Iowa State on big plays on 3rd and short play actions, first finding Lachey on Iowa’s first touchdown for 36 yards in the first quarter, then another big play to Erick All in which Patterson took two Cyclone blitzers out to give McNamara the time to find All. Seriously that’s an insane block by Patterson:

Of course, in typical El Assico fashion, we got shenanigans to end it. The Iowa State drive to cut it to 20-13 gave me vibes of the first New England-Philadelphia Super Bowl in which the Eagles trailed by two scores in the fourth and eventually scored to cut the lead to 24-21, but used 3:52 of the remaining 5:40 left in the game and didn’t go no-huddle at any point. Where in the world was the urgency from the Cyclones? They had momentum for the first time since their first drive of the game but some of those plays used the entirety of the play clock. And then when they got the ball back after Iowa obviously couldn’t convert a 3rd and 1 - why Patterson didn’t get that call, I’ll never know - you need to scope that final play call from Iowa State coordinator Nathan Scheelhaase. Imagine Brian Ferentz calls that on 4th and 1, down 20-13 to your in-state rival that you might have teetering a bit despite largely having no control on the game at all. We’d burn the Internet down had that been Brian.

Thankfully Iowa’s defense sealed the game - Ethan Hurkett gets beers for a LONG time off that single play - but I’m honestly just tired of seeing that. That never should have been necessary given Iowa’s weird control on this game. Whatever. Get the win, get the hell out of Ames.

Other thoughts:

  • Cade missed two long touchdowns, one on a throw to Seth Anderson, then another at the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter in which Diante Vines had multiple steps but the ball was under-thrown (looked a bit like pass interference, but after an early call that went Iowa’s way with some early contact on Nico Ragaini, the refs weren’t calling it the rest of the way). Great calls by Brian - again, have to give him some credit despite a tepid yardage total - but those have to be executed on the field. The calls were great, but the throw was off both time. The toss to Anderson would’ve been a 90+ yard touchdown but McNamara was hit as he threw. The second to Vines has to be made. Iowa can’t miss those throws going forward.
  • Seriously, Iowa State’s drive to cut the lead to 20-13 was far too nonchalant. Frequently the play clock was going down to 2 or 1 before the snap, and the drive took over 7 minutes, plus a timeout had to be used. That was malpractice by Matt Campbell, and if I were an Iowa State fan I’d be so pissed off by that drive.
  • Kaleb Johnson looked a tad off the pace today. I hope he’s healthy. Fortunately, Patterson was shot out of a cannon all day. Really impressive 10 carries from him. Should have been more. He earned that last third down call over Kaleb.
  • Sebastian Castro - how have I not mentioned the defense more? - had the easiest pick-6 ever on his 30-yard interception return. That is the easiest touchdown Iowa will score all year. Terrible read by Rocco Becht.
  • 200 wins for Kirk Ferentz. He’s not perfect, he has blind spots, but 200 wins doesn’t just happen out of thin air. He’s especially good in the Sunday-Friday, “he’ll have the team ready to go” phylum of coaching.
  • Again behind schedule on 325. Yes, this will get tiresome. No, I don’t care - it’s a story because Iowa made it one. They reap what they sow here. Iowa’s got to get this offense on track - we saw a lot more gap blocking, traps, pulls, etc. than we saw zone, and that might help. That seems to be more suited for this personnel. Iowa’s offense seemed closer to “normal” for them, but more importantly - it felt like they had Iowa State off-balance for much of the afternoon. They looked more threatening today and against a better defense than they saw last week. Progress, I guess?