I’ve got to admit I was more than worried when the Hawkeyes took the field against the Gophers for homecoming weekend at Kinnick Stadium Saturday.
Would the offense show up or get shut down like it did against Iowa State?
How about the defense? Could they stop a team like Minnesota that came in to the game 4-0, or would they give up 32 points like they did last week?
What about the special teams? Could they cover an onside kick?
Can Mark Weisman continue to run over a Big Ten defense?
One of the things you can count on is the Hawkeyes’ leadership.
When you have offensive captains like James Vandenberg and James Ferentz, defensive captains like James Morris and Micah Hyde, you’ve got some quality people leading the way.
The other big part of the Iowa program is its coaches.
On of the great parts of being down on the sideline is I get to walk behind the Iowa bench and hear the coaches talk to their players.
I saw first-year defensive line coach Reece Morgan drawing up situations on defense to his young and inexperienced D-line on one occasion.
The next time it was first-year offensive line coach Brian Ferentz using the marker board in front of his O-linemen.
Great coaches equals great teachers.
I’m starting with the defense this week, since they pitched a shutout in the first half and held the Gophers to three first downs and 75 yards total offense at halftime.
When your starting linebackers (Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey) combine for 27 tackles, have two sacks and Christian returns an interception 68 yards to seal the win you know you have a good thing going.
Minnesota was 1-6 on third down conversions in the first half.
The defensive line, which had six players with tackles, were led by Louis Trinca-Pasat, who actually quit the team for a month last November.
Phil Parker, the defensive coordinator, threw in a blitz or two and the Gophers were off balance all afternoon.
It was good to see Greg Castillo pick up his first interception. The senior from New Jersey gets ripped a lot on the message boards, but he did a good job subbing for injured B.J. Lowery.
The offense was once again led by Mark Weisman, who just keeps on trucking with 177 yards and one touchdown. It should have been two, but he was called down on the 1-foot line. James Vandenberg snuck it in on the next play.
Mark had 155 yards in the first half. He has totaled 515 yards in three games averaging 7.0 yards per carry while scoring seven touchdowns.
How about the Hawks doing a flea-flicker play with James handing off to Mark, Mark tossing the ball back to James who found Jordan Cotton wide open for a 47 yard touchdown play.
I was in the south end zone and didn’t see the pitch back from Mark to James so when Jordan was coming right at me after he caught the ball I wondered how he got so wide open.
Once again the offensive line, with sophomore Andrew Donnell making his first start at guard in place of the injured Austin Blythe, gave up no sacks and opened some big time holes for Mark. Mark didn’t have one negative yard rushing Saturday.
Eight Hawkeyes caught passes and Keenan Davis led the way with six.
Mike Meyers hit a 44-yard field goal and is 10-11 for the season.
As for the onside kick coverage, the Gophers tried one at the end of the game and Iowa recovered!
“I think we just played well on all three phases,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. “I thought James Vandenberg did a great job of running our offense and leading the team. Special teams really stepped up. I thought our special teams were 100 percent better today. The defense held the opponent to seven points until the last couple of minutes and came up with seven on their own, a great effort by Chris Kirksey. It was really just a great team effort.”
Floyd the pig is back in Iowa City and the Hawkeyes got the monkey off their back as they were 0-6 in trophy games.
The Hawks have a week off and then travel to Michigan State on Oct. 13.
Austin Blythe, B.J. Lowery and Damon Bullock should be ready to go against the Spartans.
Greg Garman played against the Gophers, so hopefully Iowa will have three running backs healthy to play.
They’re going to need them as the Big Ten is tough and physical, especially at East Lansing.
After the win, these two weeks should go pretty fast.