Iowa’s defense has been a little leaky the past few weeks. Friday was really no different. Tommy Armstrong was both the best player for Nebraska and the worst. He averaged over 5 yards per carry and had 46 yards on the ground on the day. Through the air he racked up nearly 300 yards. The Huskers finished with 433 yards of total offense (a full 183 yards more than Iowa). They had 7 drives of at least 30 yards (and one more that was 29 yards).
But Iowa held Nebraska to just 20 points on those 7 drives. On two of them, the Hawkeye defense came up with big 4th down stops. Another ended in an interception by Greg Mabin. Twice Iowa held them to field goals.
Even Nebraska’s touchdowns were aided by some questionable officiating. The first was thanks to a no-call on an ineligible man downfield as the tight end who caught a long pass was covered on the line of scrimmage. The other involved a catch along the sideline that at least looked like it could have been out of bounds and that the ball might have hit the ground. It wasn’t reviewed though and the Huskers scored a few plays later.
So Iowa did a good job of not breaking. Despite giving up 433 yards of offense, they only gave up two touchdowns and two field goals. That’s going to be good enough for Iowa almost every time.
It’s CJ Time
Well, maybe this weekend will be C.J. time. He won’t have to deal with weather, particularly the wind, for the first time in a while. On Friday, he really didn’t need to do a whole lot. He had to make a few throws here and there, but basically he just needed to not turn it over. He only threw it 16 times, completing 9 passes for just 97 yards.
Amazingly, Iowa didn’t convert a single third down, which is usually Beathard’s specialty. He actually completed a few third down passes short of the sticks, which was certainly a problem for Iowa the past couple seasons, but hasn’t been this year.
The good news is that C.J. is looking healthier and healthier. The bootleg is back in the playbook and was used on Beathard’s 1 TD pass when he found George Kittle wide open in the back of the end zone after a good run fake.
Capitalize on Mistakes
Nebraska will make mistakes. It is what they do.
Yep. Almost Iowa’s entire game plan was predicated on Nebraska making mistakes. The offense threw in a few wrinkles, but pretty much shut it down in the second half after Jordan Canzeri’s two long touchdown runs. The defense let Armstrong try to throw with windy conditions, knowing that he’d throw up a few ducks. And Armstrong obliged, throwing four interceptions.
Look at Iowa’s four touchdowns.
The first came on a drive that a C.J. Beathard fumble was called back because of a Nebraska penalty for illegal hands to the face. Two plays later another 15-yard penalty put Iowa in striking distance at Nebraska’s 24-yard line.
The second touchdown came after a great punt from Dillon Kidd. Iowa blitzed, the Huskers failed to cut down Parker Hesse, and he jumped up, tipped a little swing pass from Armstrong, took a second to collect the ball and then walked into the end zone.
The third came right after a good punt return by Desmond King that was extended thanks to a late hit out of bounds. That gave the Hawks the ball at the Nebraska 34-yard linne. Two Canzeri runs later, it was 21-10 Iowa.
And the fourth score was just a beautiful play, although it wasn't set up by a Husker mistake. The blocking was great and Canzeri hit the hole and was gone.
Fourth Quarter Magic
Iowa didn’t really need to do much of anything in the 4th quarter. They took a 28-17 lead into the quarter and with the way Armstrong was playing, those 11-points were enough. The Huskers did manage to drive into scoring range twice, the first time opting to throw an unsuccessful fade on 4th-and-1 and the second time kicking a field goal. The only real magic for Iowa was recovering the onside kick attempt. Iowa has now recovered all four onside kicks against them this year!
The regular season is over, but Iowa still has another game to come. Plus another game after that (and hopefully even another game after that). Michigan State will be unquestionably the best team Iowa has played this year. Connor Cook is a pro quarterback. Their defense is solid. And like Iowa, they’ve found a lot of different ways to win games.
Still, I think this is the best match up for Iowa of the possible three B1G East teams that had a shot at winning that division. Their offensive attack cam be very good, but doesn’t pose huge schematic problems for Iowa’s defense. And their defense isn’t quite what it was under Pat Narduzzi.
So, Go Hawks! Beat Sparty!