Two weeks ago I wrote about how sometimes there are no real keys to the game and everything is just terrible. But this week, cue up the Bricksburg band, because the keys didn’t matter but everything was awesome anyway. This was easily the best game of the year and Iowa’s best game against a conference opponent since maybe the B1G opener against Minnesota last year, but more likely the 2010 MSU game. The offense looked competent, even quite good at times. The defense was dominant. Special teams had some special moments (though they also had the only couple of bad plays of the day). All around, it was an awesome performance. Very awesome.
Generate Nontraditional Points
With Jake Rudock finding receivers down the middle of the field and the run game chugging along (Mark Weisman is a touchdown machine and Akrum Wadley was a very pleasant surprise), Iowa didn’t even need to generate points outside of the base offense, but did anyway. Ben Niemann had one of the best plays of the day with a blocked punt, scoop and score to put Iowa up 24-0 in the first quarter against a Northwestern team only giving up 24 points per game.
Other semi-nontraditional point generation came from a long Marshall Koehn field goal after a flea-flicker (clearly Greg Davis’s favorite trick play). And Iowa had its first touchdown set up by a long Jonathon Parker kick return. And a side note on those two players…both have come up big for the Hawkeyes lately and deserve continued praise. Koehn, after starting the season horribly, has made his last 7 field goals and is now 9/12 on the year. Parker continues to provide big sparks. Hopefully whatever his injury is, it's not serious and he doesn’t miss any more time.
The only points the defense gave up followed a high, but catchable snap on a punt, that gave Northwestern the ball on the Iowa 18-yard line. The defense was great. The safeties played their best game in a long time. John Lowdermilk, who has had his share of struggles, looked great. He had a team-high 12 tackles, a forced fumble and broke up a pass. The rest of the secondary was great, too. They were definitely helped by the defensive line getting a great pass rush. In the first half, Drew Ott and Louis Trinca-Pasat were basically unblockable on passing downs. Trevon Siemian, before getting benched, was a miserable 8 of 18 for 68 yards. If you add in the sacks he took (47 yards worth), he generated just 21 yards when dropping back to pass 23 times. That is not good…
Make November Matter
The next four weeks are set up to be one of the most exciting Novembers of B1G football (at least for the West) I can remember with the West division a tight 4-team race. Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin each have just one conference loss and play a round-robin over the remainder of this month.
Iowa looks to have the easiest schedule of the bunch with Wisconsin and Nebraska at home and Illinois still on the schedule. But Nebraska, even with road games at Wisconsin and Iowa, is probably still the favorite. Minnesota has the toughest task, with Ohio State as their other game outside of the round robin.
There were a couple of bananas, a guy with a horse mask (Adam Jacobi?) who was eating a bucket of popcorn, and a few other costumes littered throughout the stands. It's safe to say, though, that everyone not in purple enjoyed their time in Kinnick. The weather was perfect football weather. The card stunt was pretty good, and I liked the marching band show. The game had exciting plays, dominating defense, and was just fun to watch. Why can’t every game follow a holiday?
The battle for the Big Ten West begins on Saturday with Iowa at Minnesota. Minnesota looks a little less dangerous coming off a loss to Illinois and struggling against Purdue in the game before that. But they have a good enough run game to make me nervous. If the Iowa that showed up on Saturday is the team we’re going to see for the rest of November, though, then every game will be winnable and Iowa should win this one.