Midway through the second quarter of Iowa's win over Illinois State, Hawkeye Nation's Jon Miller planted his tongue in his cheek and tweeted out the following:
Here's your info for Iowa football tickets: http://t.co/2LHxvGFMxG— Jon Miller (@HawkeyeNation) September 5, 2015
It was for good reason, as the bandwagon will be rolling toward Ames all week. Iowa started the day with a 79-yard touchdown drive, followed it with a 99-yard touchdown drive, and never looked tested by Illinois State en route to a 31-14 season-opening victory. The Hawkeyes racked up 431 yards of offense, with new quarterback C.J. Beathard completing 15/24 passes for 211 yards, a robust 8.8 yards per attempt. Running back LeShun Daniels ran for 123 yards on 26 carries. Jordan Canzeri, who was Iowa's leading receiver on the day with five catches for 90 yards, added 28 yards on five attempts.
Iowa's offense didn't look much like the plodding, lethargic offense of the last three seasons, either. The Hawkeyes used Beathard's arm effectively, with bubble screens and swing passes finding their recipients with blockers and room to move. The offensive line, the biggest question mark entering the season, busted holes in the Illinois State defensive front with regularity, and Daniels and Canzeri showed patience behind blockers and agility and speed to take advantage of them. Aside from the tepid stats for Iowa receivers and tight ends, there was little to find wrong with the performance.
Defensively, Iowa looked quicker to the ball and less vulnerable on the edge. Defensive end Drew Ott was a terrormonster in the Redbirds' backfield, recording two sacks and a handful of hurries and hits on Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson. The secondary was solid -- Illinois State basically ignored Desmond King's side of the field, and Greg Mabin responded to the challenge -- and Josey Jewell looked like the middle linebacker this defense needed. Iowa got creative on the defensive side, as well, returning to the "Raider" third down package that had been so successful in 2013. Illinois State scored two late touchdowns against Iowa's second-string defense; before those final two drives, the Redbirds managed just 106 yards of offense.
The telling moment of the game came on one of the day's few failures. Iowa's third offensive drive stalled at the Illinois State 30 yard line. Marshall Koehn, ostensibly in the game to kick a 47-yard field goal, took a direct snap and ran for the edge. He was stopped two yards short of a first down, turning the ball back over to Illinois State. The crowd stood and roared its approval. This didn't look like old Iowa, and for a program that's been stuck in malaise for more than a year, a simple sign that something is different is enough to call the day a success.