6 and 0! Let’s focus on that. Iowa is finding ways to win week after week. This week it was Jordan Canzeri with a B1G Offensive Player of the Week performance and some solid enough defense that came up with big plays when needed. With injuries mounting, Iowa is going to have to keep finding different ways to win.
Run The Ball More
I can assure you Kirk Ferentz didn’t say they "should’ve run more" in his post-game presser, as Nebraska head coach Mike Riley did a week earlier after losing to Illinois. With the game on the line, Ferentz wasn’t messing around with any of those fancy passing plays. Jordan Canzeri took over the game and ran, ran, and ran some more. Everyone has written about Canzeri’s 43-carry, 256-yard performance, but really not enough can be said about how amazing it was. The best part about it was that he got better as the game went on and was his best when the team needed him to step up in the second half. Iowa’s ability to wear a defense down and put up 7 minutes drives in the 4th quarter has been a factor in at least a couple of their wins this year.
It was also good that Iowa was able to really rest LeShun Daniels his week. They’ve been trying to get him back healthy from his ankle injury, but playing sparingly each week hasn’t helped and the injury has lingered. Derrick Mitchell and Akrum Wadley both got in the game, though neither got a carry. Mitchell did take a shovel pass for a few yards. It was good that they were on the field for some meaningful snaps. It would be nice if Canzeri didn’t need to carry it 40+ times again. Maybe this little reintroduction to playing time will turn into some actual carries next week for Mitchell or Wadley.
Injuries showed their ugly head on third downs for Iowa on both sides of the ball. On offense, the loss of Ike Boettger left Iowa with both tackle spots relying on backups. James Daniels saw his first reps at right tackle and it was rough. On obvious passing downs, he got destroyed. C.J. Beathard had no time and Daniels gave up a sack. When Beathard did have time, he had a couple of near misses with Jereminic Smith. It’s probably unfair for the first comment about Smith to be negative, because he had a couple of great catches and big plays. He was he real vertical threat on the offense Saturday. But he missed a couple of catches that might have made the game quite a bit more comfortable in the closing minutes….catches that I think Tevaun Smith would have made. But Jereminic’s only a true freshman and looks like he’s going to turn into a very good receiver.
On defense, the Drew Ott loss hurt and is going to continue to hurt the rest of the season. He was having himself a disruptive game with a sack and another tackle for loss before his injury. Iowa, content to stay in base defense for the most part, didn’t get a ton of pressure on Wes Lunt after that (though Jaleel Johnson, who is quietly having himself a really good year, did break through for a sack). And Lunt engineered a couple of good drives. The dude is a slinger and he really picked on Greg Mabin. But Iowa was able to hold the Illini to a FG, intercepted a really dumb reverse pass, and held on to the lead throughout the second half. Phil Parker may need to look into creating pressure by sending more than 4 rushers, which he hasn’t really done since the second half against Iowa State.
Keep Illinois One Dimensional
The streak is over. Iowa’s defense gave up a rushing touchdown. But that was about it in the way of rushing for Illinois. They only had 46 yards on 24 attempts…not even 2 yards per carry. Illinois’ two crippling turnovers also came outside of Wes Lunt’s control. The interception was a WR pass and the fumble was Illinois trying to catch Iowa’s defense off-guard at the end of the game. So it was really all on Wes Lunt’s shoulders.
And he came pretty close. He threw for 317 yards on 25 of 41 passing and had a pretty 53-yard TD pass that got the Illini within 3 points in the 4th quarter. But the Iowa secondary did enough. Desmond King pretty much controlled his side of the field (though that 53-yard TD was at least partially on him, though I think Jordan Lomax probably was supposed to be there). Greg Mabin gave up a lot of short throws, but nothing crippling and he did kind of redeem himself with the interception. But that was really the key…another bend-but-don’t-break performance by the defense, holding Illinois to two field goals instead of touchdowns in the 3rd quarter when it looked like they might be gaining some momentum.
Win The 4th Quarter
Iowa didn’t technically win the 4th quarter in the points department, as they scored two field goals to Illinois’ touchdown, but that Jordan Canzeri drive was a winning drive. 13 plays, 59 yards, and 6:53 off of the clock. That gave Iowa a 6-point lead (which admittedly didn’t feel too great at the time) and left Illinois with 3:20 to do something. That is plenty of time and 6 points was not a comfortable lead, but the Illini promptly fumbled, Iowa pounced on it and after a few more Canzeri rushes put the game away with another Koehn FG.
The Battle for the West. The West won’t be won in week three of the B1G season, but whoever wins this game is going to have a leg up on the rest of the division. This will on paper be Iowa’s toughest remaining game…win and they can afford a slip up and maybe even two and still head to Indianapolis in December. Iowa might be down to backup everywhere, but hopefully they can just find a way to win.