I’m not into moral victories and I’m not sure that Iowa’s loss, 28-17, Saturday would even seem like a moral victory.
At least Iowa still had a chance in the middle of the fourth quarter, down 28-17 with the ball at midfield and over four minutes left in the game.
Almost all of the preseason magazines, the Big Ten media and the ESPN football guys picked Iowa to finish in the bottom half of the Legends division.
The scary part of all that is sometimes those guys are right.
Before the season I thought the Iowa State and Northwestern games were tossups and Iowa lost both.
I thought the Hawks would lose at Michigan State and win against Penn State at Kinnick Stadium... wrong again.
The next four games will make or break Iowa’s season, two on the road against Indiana and Michigan, two at home against Purdue and Nebraska.
Don’t even think I’m going to try to predict how they will play out.
I thought Iowa’s speed on defense would help slow down the Wildcat attack, but getting pounded on the ground is not what I expected.
The ‘Cats racked up 349 yards on the ground (7.1 per carry) and had two backs rush for over 160 yards.
I’ll start with the good, and when quarterback sneak is one of your best plays, you know it’s going to be a long day.
James Vandenberg scored two touchdowns on sneaks for Iowa’s two scores.
I thought James had a decent day passing, going 24-38 for 214 yards. The only problem I have with that is the longest pass was only 19 yards.
I don’t know how the Hawkeyes are going to win if they can’t go deep at least two or three times a game.
When I say deep I mean 25 to 35 yard passes that connect.
James spread the ball around hitting eight different receivers, including Tevaun Smith and Jacob Hillyer, who are both true freshman and both caught their first pass.
“We threw the ball better in the second half than we have in a while and moving forward that’s what we need to continue to do,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.
It was good to see Damon Bullock back after Mark Weisman went down with an injury.
Damon didn’t seem to miss a beat after being out since the UNI game, which seems like years ago.
I like the fact that Damon can make you miss, is real good at cutting back and had 107 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He also caught five passes out of the backfield and picked up 41 more yards.
The receivers had at least three dropped passes and Keenan Davis got hurt but Kevonte Martin-Manley had seven catches and 46 yards. Keenan did come back in and had three receptions.
The good on defense would have to be B.J. Lowery intercepting his first pass and Micah Hyde recovering a fumble.
Mike Meyers hit a 40-yard field goal to get back on track.
Iowa had more first downs (23) than the ‘Cats (20), more passing yards 214-84 and had the ball more, 34:25-25:35.
The bad would have to start with rushing yards.
I didn’t think Iowa would get run over all afternoon, but when Northwestern pounded out 349 yards in 49 carries you wonder what happened to the Hawkeye run defense.
Coming into the game, the Hawks were ranked sixth in the Big Ten in rush defense. They were allowing an average of 131.3 yards per game, 3.6 yards per rush.
The defensive line was supposed to be the weak link because of graduation and first time players.
Iowa has a couple of four-star recruits on the D-line that are redshirting. They must not be ready or they would be playing.
The new look offensive line, minus Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal who are lost for the season with injuries, gave up three sacks.
The punting game would have to be included in the bad with Connor Kornbrath averaging only 32 yards per punt. There was a stiff wind that held up a couple of punts.
The Hawkeyes had the Wildcats pinned down to their 1-yard line after Micah Hyde downed a punt by John Wienke.
The first play of the start of the second quarter with Iowa trailing 7-3 saw Venric Mark go right up the middle untouched for 73 yards.
If not for Micah Hyde’s hustle and tackle, the ‘Cats would have had a 99-yard touchdown run. They did score on the drive.
Iowa had the ball to open the second half and went three and out.
The Wildcats blocked Connor Kornbrath’s punt, Northwestern recovered on the Hawk 4 and scored on the first play.
Talk about momentum swing.
Iowa trailed 14-3 at half and that play gave the ‘Cats a 21-3 lead and all kinds of confidence.
The Wildcat who blocked the punt came untouched right up the middle.
Kirk Ferentz said there were a couple new faces on the punt team, but my goodness, that just can’t happen.
Iowa only had three penalties, but all were for delay of game. That can really kill a drive and take away a third and short.
The last part of the ugly is falling behind, 28-3.
I had a little hope when Iowa closed the gap to 28-17 with 6:37 left in the game but that’s a big hill to climb.
Next up, Iowa travels to Indiana, which knocked off a really bad Illinois team last weekend. This is a huge game for the Hawks (4-4, 2-2 in the Big Ten), who need two more wins to be bowl eligible.
Finally I’d like to thank the Chicago Bears for saving me the last two weekends. Da Bears knocked off Detroit, 14-7, on Monday Night Football, two days after the Hawkeyes got smoked by Penn State.
Sunday, the Bears kicked a last-second field goal to beat the Carolina Panthers, 23-22... Chicago is 6-1.