Iowa is 3-0 with two wins over Power 5 teams. How many teams can say that? Well, actually not very many. There are only six eams in the country with two wins over Power 5 schools right now. The Hawkeyes are in some pretty highly ranked company, as the others are Notre Dame (#6), Georgia (#7), LSU (#8), Northwestern (#17), and Toledo (NR). So why aren’t Toledo and Iowa ranked after two big wins? Oh yeah…that’s right…Iowa State. But the point is, Iowa with its supposed easiest schedule is the country, is in some good company right now and is 3-and-0 and should be 4-and-0 a week from now, giving Iowa its first undefeated non-conference season since 2009. And if the year turns out anywhere as near as magical as that one, then I'm on board with Pat’s "Ferentz 3.0".
Marshall Koehn was my second factor on Friday, but I’m just going to go ahead and move him right up to the top.
On Friday I wrote:
If this game is close tomorrow, I’d feel very comfortable with Koehn being the difference for a game winner.
On Saturday day…
Koehn unsurprisingly earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors this week. In additional to the game winner, Koehn also kicked a 43-yard FG, a 64-yard punt, and had 4 touchbacks on 5 kickoffs. The dude is a weapon.
The defenses won a lot of battles on Saturday. Neither run game was particularly effective, though Iowa did get a little bit going with Jordan Canzeri in the second half. Both teams were able to grunt out some decent drives, though it was big plays that gave Iowa an early lead and then helped Pitt get back in the game.
Desmond King had two interceptions on Pitt’s first two drives…both of which very impactful. The first set up Iowa’s first score and the second stopped Pitt from getting theirs. Then Iowa's first touchdown of the day was set up by a 51-yard bomb to Tevaun Smith on the first play of the drive. The Hawks were able to punch it in just four plays later as C.J. Beathard scrambled and scored on the 3rd down from the 9-yard line.
The big play that allowed Pitt to get back in the game was a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. I was a little worried about the inexperience Iowa has with the shield punt formation, and Pitt found the cracks in the scheme and got through a whole slew of players. It came right after Beathard missed Smith for what would have been another long pass and maybe a touchdown.
The Hawkeyes managed to get momentum back after Pitt decided to punt on a 4th-and-inches in Iowa territory and then after a couple of good Canzeri runs, Beathard hit Jacob Hillyer on a quick pass over the middle and Hillyer took it for 32 yards. And then a few plays later, after a (questionable?) holding call, Greg Davis dialed up a screen pass to Canzeri that was really effective and set up a touchdown three plays later.
Pitt held serve with a momentous play of their own. Amidst an incredible I-O-W-A chant, the Panthers had multiple long passes to drive down the field, none bigger than a 19-yarder to the tight end, when everyone thought it was going to Tyler Boyd, on a 4th-and-14. Two plays later they did go to Boyd and tied it up with 0:52 to go. The rest is history.
Hey, at least Drew Ott played. He was pretty limited in terms of getting any sort of push and mostly was only out there on obvious passing downs, but his speed rush was okay. The Ott-limited defense didn’t get much pressure for most of the game. Nate Meier did have two sacks and a hurry. But for the most part it was a different plan than we saw in the second half against ISU. The blitzes were dialed way back and the defensive line looked more content to play contain. For the most part that worked. Iowa sat back in coverage and was able to cover most everyone -- except for Boyd…who was basically uncoverable. King’s two interceptions on throws Boyd’s way were a huge win, even if Boyd had 10 receptions for 131 yards on the night.
On the other side of the ball, Pitt provided the offensive line with its biggest challenge to date. Narduzzi dialed up the blitz…a lot. And for the most part the line held its own. Beathard was sacked just once, but took quite a few hits and was hurried a few other times. But the offense adjusted, threw quick passes, countered with a few screens, and was able to move the ball.
Clean It Up
Iowa had five penalties for the third week in a row. It hasn’t bitten them yet, but I’m still waiting for it to get better. At least this week the penalties weren’t gifting the opponent first downs. Still, this is something I’m going to be watching in the weeks to come.
I don’t think we’ll see C.J. taking off and running it very often this weekend. He took some brutal hits and there shouldn’t be any reason to subject him to that against North Texas. The same goes for Ott and LeShun Daniels. It’s fine to give them a few reps, but let’s keep everyone as healthy as possible for Wisconsin.