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View From The Cheap Seats: Pain before Pleasure

Winning doesn’t always feel good...

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

The game we all watched on Saturday was, well, a whole lot worse than the final score indicated. How does a game that your team wins convincingly feel like a regression? I’ve been cautiously optimistic through the first two weeks, looking for ways to explain this team’s flagging play, and their seeming inability to click (on either side of the ball), but I’m not sure how much longer that can be the case, especially with a trip to Happy Valley just 4 days away.

I can overlook the defense giving up a 64 yard TD (Harris is rusty, Nwankpa didn’t get to his spot in coverage). I can even overlook some of the “almost got him” passes from Cade and chalk it up to pressing, or lack of chemistry due to missed practice time, but it’s getting harder and harder to think that this team is just a couple plays away from putting it all together, and starting to look like this year will be like so many others, frustratingly successful.

The Pain

We saw this too many times on Saturday. This defense should not be burned for 20+ by this QB. This was, by far his longest run of the day and WMU only managed 117 yards total on the ground, but Iowa gave up at least 3 runs of 10+ yards on this play in the 1st half. Better teams, with better running QBs, saw this, and that doesn’t bode well. Phil made the adjustment and got this taken care of, but I can see this biting us down the road against far superior opposition.

Jermari Harris is rusty, Nwankpa doesn’t get deep enough in coverage and WMU takes advantage. Makes me wonder if DeShaun Lee being in prevents this TD, but likely not as this is mostly on X missing his assignment.

I went back and forth over whether to include the clip of Luke Lachey’s injury and decided not to. It’s bad, ‘nuff said. I really hate when these situations get replayed ad infinitum, and I’ve decided not to participate in that trend. If you want to watch Lachey’s season vanish in an instant, feel free to do that on your own time. This was the single most painful moment of the game, for everyone involved.

Nwankpa shares some blame for the first WMU TD, this one is completely on Harris who just flat out gets beat and is saved by a WMU OLineman drifting just a tad too far downfield. This secondary was supposed to be our strongest unit, and aside from Cashtro (not a typo) and Coop, the unit is definitely underperforming.

The Pleasure

LeShon Williams

I’ll be the first one to admit that I was not excited about the prospect of Leshon Williams getting a lot more time with KJ2 being out with an ankle injury. I was ecstatic to see Jaz get more carries, and expected to see a true freshman make an impact, and while we got both of those things, I’ll gladly eat crow on the Williams take. My only real quibble is that when he had the opportunity, he made the same mistake Jaz made against ISU, in not just running to the pylon. I’m not sure who ran LeShon down, but I know for damn sure it wasn’t future NFL All-Pro DB TJ Tampa. I am, however, fairly certain that if he had stopped looking over his shoulder, that would have been a 61-yard TD scamper and not a 53-yard run to the WMU 8. He was running hard all day and put up some impressive numbers.

Kamari Moulton

I really liked what I saw out of Kamari Moulton Saturday. Limited carries, but he made the most of them and looked shifty and powerful while doing it. I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that his fumble was a TD (but BTN had terrible angles so I’m sure that there weren’t any decent shots to review either way).

Anterio Thompson

Anterio Thompson is going to be a beast when he can find his way into the DL rotation. I have to assume that it’s mostly that he’s new to the system and stuck behind some vets. I’d love to see if he can generate more QB pressure (and a few more sacks) than the line is currently providing, maybe this play gets him some snaps on Saturday, and a chance to ruin Drew Allars B1G coming out party.

Looking forward...

I’m not sure how many of you are aware of BHGP OG Patrick Vint’s new Substack blog Hawkeye State, but every one of you should be. His latest piece is worth a read, and sums up the Iowa/PSU “rivalry” better than I could (if I’m ever half as good as Vint, I’ll be a happy man). The B1G has tried seven ways to Sunday to create an in-conference rivalry for PSU for 33 years, and has failed miserably (does anyone even remember what the Land Grant trophy looks like?). Why they continue to overlook Iowa/PSU as a true rivalry is beyond me (though I’m guessing that it’s more about internal conference politics than anything else).

Sure, there’s no regionality to it, but man have the Hawks and Nittany Lions put on some barnburners over the past 3 decades. I guarantee that any Iowa fan over 30 will have instant association with any of the following descriptions of six words or less:

  • Nate Kaeding walkoff in double OT
  • 6-4
  • Daniel Murray walkoff
  • Adrian Clayborn scoop and score
  • Saquon Barkley
  • Touchdown Iowa! Nico Ragaini!

Iowa has thrice ruined Penn State seasons that looked like they were heading for a shot at a National Championship, and there is very little love lost between the fanbases (spend 5 minutes in this week’s r/CFB Iowa v. Penn State game thread and you will see what I mean). This is a true rivalry, developed almost entirely on the field, between two programs that have been near mirror images of each other since James Franklin took over in 2014. So I ask the B1G: What are you waiting for?

As for this Saturday’s matchup, I’m not sure how to feel. Every prediction I’ve seen is calling for a fairly safe PSU victory with Iowa going into Happy Valley as a 14 point underdog with the PSU Money line at –630. ESPN’s SPI+ Predictor, on my last check, gave Iowa just a 13.6% chance of victory, and that was before our underwhelming performance against WMU (I can’t bring myself to look for the current stat).

That being said, Penn State’s comfortable win over Illinois wasn’t exactly a blowout and had Illinois’ offense decided to show up at all (5 turnovers with 4 interceptions thrown by Luke Altmeyer), it could have been a lot closer. Penn State has faced exactly 1 tough defense this year, and they didn’t exactly light the world on fire. Iowa’s defense isn’t what it was last year, but it is still better than Illinois’. If the offense can find any kind of rhythm, and hit a few big plays, this could be yet another big win over a Penn State team that some have anointed the best of the B1G.

Hopefully the alternate road Uni’s get this Iowa team jacked up and, in the mood to put another dagger into the hearts of Penn State fans everywhere.

As always, Go Hawks!