By Don Lund
For the second week in a row the Hawkeye offense couldn’t find the end zone, but the defense kept them in it until the end. It wasn’t enough, and the Iowa State Cyclones held on for a 9-6 win.
I don’t get it. The defense is supposed to be rebuilding and the offense has a senior quarterback, a new offensive coordinator, a solid line and an All-American tight end, but scores only one touchdown in two games!
Going into the game, Iowa was 40-0 with Kirk Ferentz as head coach when they held a team to under 10 points.
You have to go back to 1980, Hayden Fry’s second year, when Iowa lost to Arizona 5-3 to find a game when the Hawks held a team to under 10 points and lost.
Looks like we are going to have to check out the good, the bad and the ugly.
We’ll start out with the good, and once again it’s the defense leading the way.
How about Iowa’s linebacker trio of Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey combining for 40 tackles!
Anthony led the way with 19 while James had 12 tackles, recovered a fumble and almost made the play of the day with a 49-yard interception return when the ‘Clones were ready to put the game away. James picked off the pass on Iowa’s goal line and took it out to midfield with only 3:23 left on the clock and Iowa trailing 9-6.
“I was just reading his eyes on that play,” said James on the pick. “I knew he wasn’t going to throw to the running back, who I was supposed to cover and I managed to be in the right place at the right time.”
The defense also held State to 101 yards rushing on 41 carries which comes out to an average of 2.5 yards per carry.
They also came up with two fumble recoveries by James Morris and Dominique Alvis, two interceptions by James and Tom Donatell, who returned it 18 yards.
For the second week in a row, the Hawks made really good adjustments at the half and shut-out the Cyclone offense after halftime.
You would also have to say the offensive line did a good job of protecting James Vandenberg, at least for pass blocking, as he wasn’t sacked once Saturday after being sacked six times in the opening game.
The bad would have to start with only 68 yards rushing, 2.4 yards per carry. The ‘Clones have great linebackers and they were blowing up the running game.
I’d like to see Greg Garman get a few more touches. He has the speed and moves to break a big one at anytime.
The Hawkeye punting game wasn’t all bad but it wasn’t real good either.
Connor Kornbrath punted eight times for a 36.6 average. The good news is ISU returned only two but averaged 11.5 yards per return.
The last few years, the Hawks have been averaging over 40 yards per punt. State had great field position all afternoon.
The ugly has to be the dropped passes the Hawkeyes had all afternoon.
Somewhere between five and eight passes were dropped Saturday. James Vandenberg completed only 22-42 with two interceptions.
Add at least five more catches and 27-42 puts him over 64% instead of under 50%.
Some of those drops came on big hits but a dropped touchdown and a big drop at the end of the game on fourth down sure would have made it interesting.
For the second week in a row, James didn’t throw a touchdown pass. I still think he is going to have a good year, but it’s time to get going.
I like the way James faced reporters after the game, didn’t make any excuses after throwing an interception with a minute left and Iowa driving for at least a chance to tie the game.
“It was a real tight window,” said James. “The pass should have never been thrown. The guy made a great play.”
The ‘Clones turned the ball over four times but the Hawks could only come up with three points.
“It’s disappointing and we had our opportunities and the bottom line is they got the job done and we didn’t,” said coach Ferentz. “We had some drops certainly, but just little things like a false start to make it first and 15, we’re not good enough to overcome little errors like that.”
The last time Iowa lost to Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium was 2002 and of course the Hawks went on to go 8-0 in the Big Ten and tie for the conference championship.
I don’t expect that to happen this year, but I do think Iowa still has a good shot of winning the next couple of home games and get some momentum going into the Big Ten season.
UNI will be coming to Kinnick with confidence after playing Wisconsin tough before losing 26-21 in their opener. They blew out Central State University 59-0 Saturday but the Hawkeyes and the Hawk fans should be ready for the Panthers.
There are still 10 games left and the Hawks still have time to get it going in the right direction.