So that’s what forward passes look like! After the first quarter I may or may not have typed the following on our Black Heart Gold Pants Discord site: “Natty”.
So I maybe got a little too excited there, but we witnessed some happenings that have been absent for quite some time in Kinnick Stadium. Cade McNamara’s 36 yard touchdown pass to fellow newcomer Seth Anderson seemed like it was a 90 yard bomb from Nile Kinnick to Tim Dwight. After checking out the rulebook, Hawkeye fans everywhere were excited to watch some football that resembled today’s game and not a throwback, leather helmet offense. After lofting a second, beautiful touchdown pass to another portal player, Erick All, Iowa fans started looking up Indianapolis motel rooms for the B1G championship at Lucas Oil Stadium. And then it felt like most everything else came crashing down. Sigh.
If (big, big IF) Cade McNamara can stay healthy, he may have a statue in Iowa City some day. Hawk fans have been accustomed to less-than-stellar quarterback play for the past number of years. Offensive football requires an offensive line, backs, and receivers, but if you have a DUDE, you have a shot. Cade Mac is a dude. He exudes charisma and confidence. On the day Cade was 17/30 for 191 yards, 2 TD’s, and 0 INT’s. When you take into account the multiple drops (including TD’s), Cade played some good football. He is not a statue back there in the pocket, but it was evident that he was not 100% after having to elude a pass rush. I’m tempted to give Cade an A++ because it was so fun to see something different behind center. Cade did throw a really bad ball that was almost intercepted, but hey, it’s fun to see wide receivers targeted.
This is sometimes a tough grade, and to be honest, these are always subjective as heck, but I was not enamored with our offensive line, and it’s pretty tough going for a running back when guys are whiffing on blocks. That said, Iowa had a few nice runs and quite a bit of meh to ugly. Kaleb Johnson ran 19 times for 63 yards (3.3) and a touchdown. He is a 3 run homerun waiting to happen, but the Hawks have to put hats on opposing defenders. Leshon Williams carried the ball 6 times for 16 yards (2.7), and Jaziun Patterson carried 5 times for minus 2 yards (-0.4). Averaging 2.4 yards/carry against the Utah States of the world is a recipe for disaster when you will be facing B1G foes. The Hawkeyes’ running backs caught 4 balls for 31 yards so that may be something to build on.
Seth Anderson was wide open on his 36 yard touchdown reception.
Hawk fans were startled and ecstatic to see this out of non-tight ends. Other than that, it was a very quiet day from Iowa’s wide receivers. Anderson had 2 catches for 41 yards, Nico Ragaini hauled in 2 balls for 36 yards, and Kaleb Brown was targeted twice but did not come up with a catch. Ragaini’s drop was a beautiful ball, and it would have been a tough catch, but it should have been caught. Lots of room for improvement, but it felt like this group at least has some ability. Kaden Wetjen had 3 jet sweep opportunities and ended up with 27 yards; 1 of the three was stuffed, but the other two were nice runs.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Luke Lachey had 7 catches on 9 targets. He totaled 73 yards. Michigan transfer Erick All caught three passes for 15 yards and a score.
I wanted to give a lower grade, but Iowa’s pass blocking was decent. The Hawks only gave up one sack. Our run blocking is... not good. I commented during the game that it feels like Iowa’s offense always faces 12 defenders. This is somewhat hyperbolic, but it feels like an Iowa lineman whiffs on a block every play. Iowa is not good enough offensively to convert when it’s 2nd and 13 after a 3 yard loss because of a missed block. There were a lot of snaps given to various members of Iowa’s offensive line. Hopefully a core can be given the majority of those snaps going forward. George Barnett and Kirk Ferentz should figure this position group out or the Good Captain needs to find someone else to coach the O-line. If Kirk wants to save Brian’s job, and he does, it all starts up front.
I’m not going to lie. I was disappointed in our defensive line. The Hawks very much miss Noah Shannon. Utah State averaged 4.8 yards on the ground and the Hawkeyes only recorded one sack by Deontae Craig. Aaron Graves led the defensive line with five tackles, including 1 TFL. Late in the game Utah State gauged Iowa’s defense by running right up the middle against backups. It didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but you know Phil Parker was none too pleased, and it also was unusual seeing someone run against an Iowa defense.
Two things really stood out. One, Jack Campbell is one of the all-time-greats. We knew he was good, but he erased a lot of mistakes on the field. Two, Jay Higgins tackled everything in sight. Higgins waited his turn and finished with 16 tackles and a pass breakup. Nick Jackson made a few plays, but he also looked like he was new to the program (because he is). I’d guess that Jackson will settle in. The Hawkeyes have lost a great deal of production at this position the last few years; it will be important to start to develop some depth.
Utah State’s quarterback Cooper Legas dropped back 48 times. He was 32/48 for 213 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Iowa’s starting cornerback Jermari Harris did not play. Deshaun Lee got the start and he may not relinquish that spot. Cooper DeJean played a solid game collecting 7 tackles. He dropped what would have been a pick 6, but even the great ones don’t make every play. Quinn Schulte and Sebastian Castro both collected five tackles apiece. Xavier Nwankpa had two tackles and a beautiful diving interception.
He left the game and did not return but hopefully he will be good to go next week vs Iowa State. Nwankpa and DeJean are two of the best backend defenders the Hawks have had in a while, and that is saying a great deal. This duo will be spectacular to watch this season.
Special Teams: B
Iowa’s special teams, typically exceptional, were average-ish on Saturday. The negatives were that Iowa had two low snaps on punts, one was even blocked, but Tory Taylor got it off and it still went 37 yards. For positives, Taylor averaged 48.7 yards on 6 punts. Drew Stevens was 3 for 3 on extra points, and he hit his one field goal attempt from 20 yards out. Kaleb Johnson almost housed the opening kickoff. He will break one this year.
So it’s on to Iowa State. The Hawks are 1-0 with a great deal of room for improvement. That’s ideal for coaches to get their players’ attention. For fans, many of us went full-on panic mode when it started to feel like Groundhog Day. As always, it’s great to be a Hawkeye!