By Sam Kienzle
The Mr. Hyde (the beastly!): The defensive line got walled and barb wired out of the Jantz Mansion. I was bothered by this at the end of the game especially, where even the heaviest man on the line, Mike Daniels, was absorbed into a human wall. There were times when smallish Dominic Alvis’ white jersey seemed to disappear into a red mass of Cylone molasses. For the last couple of years I used to think of Iowa’s defensive lines being like a flood of molasses for ball carriers. Why? Because the Hawks were great at stopping the run, but the plays for negative yardage haven’t happened in bulk under the direction of Rick Kaczenski. For that, I do sometimes miss former defensive line coach Ron Aiken.
Iowa, clearly not the sink hole of old on Saturday, got rushed up the middle and to the outside, including on the game winner on an option pitch to James White. Christian Kirksey, a brave new hope at linebacker, got the only sack on Steele Jantz, had another tackle for loss, and athletically smashed down a few passes. Can his fellow ‘backers James Morris and Tyler Nielsen keep up? Morris’ size is a disadvantage at this point, as he was semi-regularly swallowed by blockers, and they both looked out of position. Finally, I will say that Micah Hyde and Shaun Prater got burned a lot on Jantz’s short passes.
While Hyde is an athletic playmaker, he gives up his fair share underneath yards and a few big plays a game. Prater, meanwhile, got thrown out of position and didn’t look like a shut-down corner. I’m not worried about his speed in the way I’m worried about Morris and Nielsen’s speed (Prater’s interception returns are fast, the guy can sprint with anyone), but Prater had one of his worst games as a veteran. The secondary as a whole, rearing its Mr. Hyde ugliness, ended the game with these numbers: Jantz’s 67% completion rate, 279 yards passing, four touchdowns, and ZERO interceptions.
Digesting this loss slowly, with some Pepto: The last time Iowa gave up 44 points, it was a hot sand-blasting by Andrew Walter and Arizona State in 2004. Walter flung long pass after long pass, touchdown after touchdown, expanding the score to 44-0 late in the 4th quarter. Obviously, Iowa’s offense did nothing that game, as the only points came on a punt return for a touchdown. Saturday was not one of those games.
Consider that Iowa, taking the lead with 5:50 left in the game at 24-17, may have given ISU too much time to answer, and without three overtimes and an additional twenty points tacked on, Iowa’s defense may not be as heavily scrutinized as it will be this week. Also consider that although losses to Iowa State sting as Cyclone fans brim with schadenfreude (I think that word sums up how the fans on the winning side feel) until the following Cy-Hawk bout, this was not the same agony as the 2005 loss or the 2007 loss. Overtime games are wacky and I don’t believe they necessarily forecast a team’s long-term stock. So, it’s Week 3 now, and the Hawks are 1-1. For the players, there is no time to frown and smolder. Pitt comes to Kinnick Stadium next weekend. The sun will shine again and Iowa is positioned to bounce back with a victory.