Indiana did provide Iowa with its biggest challenge defensively. The Hoosier scored on 5 drives and put up 27 points…the most Iowa has given up this season. But 27 points isn’t going to get it done against the Hawkeyes this year without a stellar defense. Iowa has only been held below 27 points once this year -- in that defensive slugfest at Wisconsin. Indiana, with the nation’s worst pass defense, wasn’t going to keep Iowa below 27.
Keep the Foot on the Pedal
It felt like Iowa could pretty much go down and score whenever they wanted to. There were a few patches where Iowa pumped the breaks a little instead of going for the kill. I thought the punt on 4th-and-less-than-1 in the third quarter felt out of place. Iowa had just gone deep on first down and went for it on 4th-and-4 on the previous drive. Instead, they punted and Indiana drove down the field and made it a 1-point game.
From there, though, Greg Davis put the game in the hands of C.J. Beathard, and C.J. took over. He made some ridiculous 3rd down throws to keep drives alive. He threw his first TD pass since the Illinois game. And he was able to run out the clock by executing a beautiful naked bootleg.
Limit the Damage
I really thought Nate Sudfeld would throw for a bunch of yards while Iowa focused and shut down the run. But it turned out to the be the exact opposite. Iowa let Jordan Howard get his yards and didn’t commit extra men to the box, instead focusing on playing really sound coverage. The result was Sudfeld having his worst game of the year. He completed a season low 43.2% of his passes, threw a pick to Desmond King (his eighth!!), and only averaged 4.9 YPA (which is 3.6 yards below his average).
So while Indiana gained 227 yards on the ground (by far the most rushing yards Iowa’s given up this year), the Hawkeye defense still managed to make them one dimensional. And in the 4th quarter when Indiana needed to throw to catch up, they had a drive of incomplete, incomplete, sack, followed by a drive of 3-yard rush, 12-yard pass, interception. And that was game over.
Extend Drives and Hang on to the Ball
So this wasn’t Beathard’s best game from a statistical perspective. But it was still pretty good. He was 19/31 for 233 yard and a TD. The big deal, though, was that he didn’t have a pick and that he was masterful on long third downs. On third and long, Beathard was 4/5 for 40 yards, picking up 4 first downs. On the whole, Iowa converted on 7 of 14 third downs, didn’t have a turnover, and controlled the ball almost 10 minutes longer than Indiana (even with the Hoosiers slowing down their usual fast pace).
Ultimately what won Iowa the game is that Iowa turned its long drives into touchdowns, while Indiana had to settle for field goals twice. On Indiana’s first drive, they made their way down to the Iowa 20-yard line, then Josey Jewell, who had a monster game, decided that was far enough and made tackles on first, second, and third down, forcing Indiana to settle for a field goal. In the fourth quarter, after a big Howard run, Indiana got all the way down to the Iowa 12-yard line. On first down, Parker Hesse broke free and forced Sudfeld to throw it into the ground as the screen was covered. Then after a short run, Iowa again got pressure, first by Nate Meier and then again by Hesse, forcing Sudfeld to scramble and throw a tough pass on the run that fell incomplete in the end zone. Indiana settled for another field goal.
Finish Both Halves Strong
Marc Morehouse has been keeping track of scores inside of 2 minutes before halftime and Iowa has been amazing. Iowa has scored 8 times in 9 games in the last 2 minutes of the first half. The one time they didn’t was the missed field goal in the Northwestern game.
This week it started with a good Desmond King kick return, giving Iowa the ball at the 35. A targeting penalty put the ball at midfield. Wadley had a nice run, Beathard completed a couple of passes, and Iowa was 1st-and-goal with 0:27 on the clock. With so little time left I think we were all thinking three passes then kick a field goal, but Greg Davis dialed up a QB-draw on second down and C.J. Beathard flew into the endzone.
Dude. I am pumped for this game. It’ll be under the lights after Grapple on the Gridiron with a chance to go 10-0 for the first time in history and a chance to bring home Floyd.