I did pick Iowa to win, so I did a little better than others. But I totally missed the mark on how this game would play out. All of my doubts about the offense that led me to believe this would be a defensive battle were unfounded. I didn't even really talk about the run game on Friday and then Akrum Wadley went off for 200+ yards and 4 TDs.
And besides a blip in the second quarter when Northwestern got a few big plays on 3rd downs and pulled within 6 before the end of the half, Iowa dominated the game.
Protect the Quarterback
There were a couple points in the game where it didn’t look for certain that C.J. Beathard would make it through four quarters. And then he didn’t have to get through four quarters.
The makeshift offensive line did a pretty decent job protecting him. The offense went a little more pass-heavy than necessary in the first half and Beathard took a few more hits than I would have liked to see. He was hurried quite a few times and the line gave up two sacks (that might have been zero if Beathard had his normal mobility). His scrambling was pretty limited. But as he settled in and Iowa started to really establish a strong rushing attack, Beathard looked a little more limber and picked up a pair of third downs with his feet.
Beathard did alright throwing the ball as well. He was 15 of 25 for 176 yards with a pick. He relied heavily on quick throws on the outside to Matt VandeBerg, but also showed some great improvisation with his 23 yard pass to Derrick Mitchell and again showed his touch on a deep ball to Tevaun Smith (which hey, it was nice to have him back for a few snaps) that was called back on a weak offensive pass interference call.
But it was great that Iowa was able to get a big enough lead that Tyler Weigers could comfortably finish out the game for most of the fourth quarter. It was good experience for him and gave Beathard a much-needed head start on resting up over the bye week.
Key on the Outside Runs
Even though the score remained close throughout the first half and even though Clayton Thorson went through a stretch where he threw 11 straight incompletions, Northwestern was very quick to abandon their run game. Justin Jackson only had 10 carries for 30 yards. He was completely shut down. Iowa was all over the Wildcats' go to pin-and-pull sweep play and the only effective runs for Northwestern were a couple of scrambles by Thorson. Northwestern finished with just 51 rushing yards on 26 carries.
Take the Points
Iowa got to the redzone 8 times. Eight!! In Northwestern’s previous 6 games, they’d only allowed teams drive down to the red zone 13 times and had only allowed those teams to score 29 points. The Hawkeye put those numbers to shame. In eight red zone trips, Iowa came away with four rushing touchdowns and two field goals. So Iowa scored more red zone points (30) in one game than Northwestern’s previous six opponents had scored combined (29). One of those two missed opportunities by Iowa is kind of a concern: Marshall Koehn missed another short field goal (he also missed another PAT earlier in the game). But the other missed red zone opportunity was Iowa just running the clock out at the end of the game with fullback dives.
Dillon Kidd and Marshall Koehn are doing well on punts and kickoffs this year, though Koehn only had three touchbacks on his eight kickoffs Saturday. That has helped swing the field position battle in Iowa’s favor several times this season. But the key for Iowa’s field position advantage on Saturday was turnovers.
Desmond King didn’t waste any time getting another interception -- he grabbed a pick on Northwestern’s 3rd play of the game and gave Iowa the ball at the Northwestern 21. He’s up to six interceptions on the year now (2nd most in the country).
The Hawkeyes also recovered two fumbles. One was a mishandled zone-read play by Thorson and Jackson, but the other was a supremely well-timed blitz by Josey Jewel. He rocked Thorson, knocked the ball loose, and Parker Hesse jumped on top of it.
Iowa recovered all three fumbles in this game and have now recovered 9 of 17 this year. Over 50%!! Last year Iowa was atrocious at recovering fumbles and only managed to score 35 points off of turnovers. The Hawkeyes have already scored 56 points off of turnovers this year. That is almost a TD more per game and has been one of the biggest differences for Iowa this year.
The bye week! Get healthy! Let other teams lose, and come back and beat Maryland. A top 10 ranking awaits!