After seven months of waiting, Iowa football has returned to us today. Let’s do a quick game recap to capture our reactions from Iowa’s Week 1 game in 2019.
Before we get too far into the weeds of the game, let’s remember not to overreact too much to the first game of the season. The Big Ten West dark horse contender Minnesota Gophers struggled to the end against FCS (Division I-AA) team, South Dakota State, and Iowa State, one of my picks for the Big 12 championship game was taken to triple overtime by the UNI Panthers, an FCS team.
In this game, it appeared that the Ferentzes were trying to test out what they had in a game, rather than just practice. The playcalling – i.e. going for it on fourth in the first and fourth quarter, taking a shot downfield on third and 1 – strongly indicated Iowa’s confidence in winning this game.
Tonight, I observed Iowa missing a few opportunities. While Gabbert (yes, Blaine’s brother) was throwing some precise passes in the first half, the big plays due to miscommunication cannot happen against the more talented teams on our schedule. I think we need to see more from both Geno Stone and Matt Hankins. Merriweather also was in position to make a play on the second Redhawk touchdown.
While we are on defense, we did not seem to be getting consistent pressure on Gabbert. It was clear that Miami game-planned for AJ Epenesa, but he needs to get some help from others. Miami of Ohio is a team that I somewhat expected to dominate on both lines. We did not do that on the defensive front.
Additionally, the deep pass problem that Nate Stanley had last year? Yeah, it still exists. By my count, he took three or four shots down field and only one connected. In his defense, two of those plays were because Ihmir Smith-Marsette was held, but we still need to take advantage of opportunities against teams like Iowa State, Michigan and the rest of the Big Ten West.
On a more objective note, I mentioned earlier this week that I wanted to see a few things this week against the Redhawks in addition to a win. I’ll summarize some statistics from the game that cover these storylines, courtesy of the ESPN app.
– 39 rushes for 203 yards as a team
– 31-yard punt (we only punted once, so this is TBD still)
– 245 total yards given up on defense, 14 points allowed
– 4 receptions for 65 yards for Mekhi Sargent, our leading receiver today (Smith-Marsette also had 4 catches, but only gained 35 yards)
– The last minute and a half of offense saw a Petras/Goodson combo at QB and RB.
I think if I intend to complain about an Iowa game, I should pick different criteria. By my own standards, we accomplished everything I had hoped we would. Fans would like to see Iowa give up less on defense to a team like Miami of Ohio, but 245 total yards and 14 points is not bad.
Iowa did make mistakes. The fullback pitch turned fumble is a game that you try on an EA Sports video game. The penalties, 5 for 32 yards per ESPN, are not what you expect from a Ferentz coached team. We have some room for improvement from a discipline standpoint.
In contrast, Sargent looked like a superstar both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. There was one play where he picked up the blitz, then caught the pass and picked up enough yardage after the catch to get the Iowa football team a first down. Toren Young had his moments and even lined up as a fullback a couple of times. Our running game looks better and that showed up in the box score.
Overall though, I feel good – not great – about Iowa right now. We didn’t need triple overtime and we didn’t rely on a couple of fluky mistakes to win. We ran the ball well, played decent defense overall, and got to see our backups for a short period of time.
With all of this in mind, Miami of Ohio isn’t a true test, so I wouldn’t be booking your tickets to Indy quite yet. That said, I wouldn’t be ruling that out either.
The biggest improvement you’ll see from a college team is between the first and second game of the season. If the Iowa football team can clean a few things up next week, I think there will be a lot of smiling Hawkeye fans this year.